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Part approval for Macquarie Bank's unsolicited proposal in Martin Place irks City of Sydney

Part approval for Macquarie Bank's unsolicited proposal in Martin Place irks City of Sydney
Part approval for Macquarie Bank's unsolicited proposal in Martin Place irks City of Sydney

The approval by the New South Wales planning department last week of an unsolicited proposal by the Sydney born-and-bred Macquarie Bank has provoked a rebuke from the City of Sydney via the Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, and highlighted council concerns that decades-old planning work to ensure Sydney CBD's streets have maximum natural light penetration are in jeopardy.

Martin Place has for many years had controls that maximise sunlight in the former east-west street as evidenced by the shape of skyscrapers proposed and built on the northern side - Angel Place's sloped roof and the tiers of Deutsche Bank place & its lattice structure are prime examples.

The overall proposal, which still has a few planning hurdles to overcome, includes the recently renovated 1920s-era  50 Martin Place which currently holds Macquarie Bank's headquarters, a 'north' tower located next door to 50 Martin Place (bounded by Castlereagh, Elizabeth and Hunter Streets) and a 'south' tower opposite the bank's headquarters with frontages to Castlereagh & Elizabeth Streets and Martin Place).

The redevelopment will include building the platforms for the new Sydney Metro City & South West, new entrances and interchange infrastructure with the existing Eastern Suburbs railway line underground.

Part approval for Macquarie Bank's unsolicited proposal in Martin Place irks City of Sydney
The various components of the proposal - image: Urban Design Report

The primary issue the City of Sydney's Lord Mayor went to twitter to say was the tower to the south of Martin Place did not meet the setback conditions (25 metres) set out decades ago to protect pedestrian amenity in the area.

"We need the NSW Government to put the public's interest first here, not Macquarie Bank's, & protect Martin Place into the future, as we've protected it for a quarter of a century", Clover Moore, Lord Mayor of Sydney said on twitter.

In a long tweet thread, the Lord Mayor continued: "25 years ago, Heritage Council, New South Wales Depart of Planning and the City of Sydney developed controls requiring towers over 55m to be set back 25m to reduce impact on the public domain in Martin Place, reduce the impact of wind on pedestrians and enable adequate sunshine."

The predominantly Sydney-based developer lobby group, Urban Taskforce Australia, added its own voice on Monday calling the approval of a new tower over the future Martin Place metro station a good balanced solution.

“It is important that the NSW Government works with the private sector in rolling out new metro rail lines and stations and the proposal for the Martin Place station is an excellent example of this.” Says Urban Taskforce CEO Chris Johnson “The final setback above a podium of 8 metres maintains the character of Martin Place while allowing a commercial tower to be built over the podium but set back by 8 metres .”

“The City of Sydney have raised concerns that a set-back of 25 metres would have been preferable but their comments do not take into account that the adjacent MLC Centre tower is set back far more than this. The proposed tower is well away from the Cenotaph down the far end of Martin Place and is more contextually related to the Reserve Bank building at the top of Martin Place.”

The proposal is now has a Stage 3 status as part of the NSW Government's unsolicited proposals process.

Lead image credit: Macquarie.

Alastair Taylor

Alastair Taylor

Alastair Taylor is a co-founder of Urban.com.au. Now a freelance writer, Alastair focuses on the intersection of public transport, public policy and related impacts on medium and high-density development.

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