Camellia – Sydney’s latest urban renewal opportunity

In July, the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) released three documents relating to the Land Use and Infrastructure Strategy for the Camellia Precinct. The Precinct has been identified within a corridor expected to grow significantly over the next two decades, helping strengthen the status of Parramatta as Sydney’s second CBD.

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Camellia Precinct
SIX Maps modified by Mecone

The Camellia Precinct is a large industrial area, approximately 320ha in size and located along the Parramatta River, 2km east of the Parramatta CBD. Currently, the Precinct employs 3000 workers, with major employers including James Hardie, Australian Pharmaceutical Industries, and the Australian Turf Club. The site was identified in a Discussion Paper released by Parramatta City Council in 2014, which looked at the challenges and opportunities that a redevelopment of the site would present, as well as outlining potential future landuses.

The DPE’s progress with the Camellia Precinct is a step in realising some of the actions outlined in the Sydney metropolitan plan, A Plan for Growing Sydney, as well as achieving the housing and employment goals outlined for Western Sydney. The Greater Parramatta to Olympic Peninsular was identified in the Plan as an area which would undergo significant changes, transitioning from industrial land uses and helping to establish Parramatta as our second CBD. Specifically, one of the actions of the Plan was to develop a structure plan for Camellia, to underpin future redevelopment of the site.

The DPE have outlined 10 Precinct Planning Principles that will help guide the redevelopment of the site. These are:

  • Increasing job density;
  • Allowing for mixed use development in the north-western quadrant;
  • Creating an industry leading entertainment precinct at Rosehill Racecourse;
  • Retaining industrial uses in the southern and eastern parts of the precinct;
  • Providing a transition zone in the northern part of the precinct along the Parramatta River;
  • Providing for vehicular connections between the Camellia, Silverwater, Rydalmere and the M4;
  • Creating a network of public open spaces;
  • Investigating additional public facilities and infrastructure; and
  • Establishing design guidelines to deliver high quality environments.

Within the 320ha Precinct, there is the opportunity to provide for 45ha of mixed use development, 55ha of private recreation, 120ha of employment land, and 100ha of heavy industrial land. Indicative plans released by the DPE highlight how these landuses will be developed and sited, with a town centre and mixed use/residential area off James Ruse Drive, and Grand Avenue providing access to employment, industrial, and recreational areas further east. Grand Avenue, the main transport artery running east-west through the site, will be revitalised to act as a new business activity corridor, whilst the employment generating land uses will develop the suburb as an “Innovation Precinct”.

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State Infrastructure Strategy 2014
Infrastructure NSW

A number of opportunities present themselves in a redevelopment of the site, many relating to the benefits of increasing dwelling provision in the area and strengthening employment opportunities close to Parramatta. However, a big focus of the exhibition documents is the transport options and opportunities for Camellia. The Precinct renewal will be supported by a number of public transport, active transport, and road upgrades. Cycleways and pedestrian pathways throughout the Precinct and along the Parramatta River are proposed, and there is consideration given to relocating the existing freight railway line to the Precinct’s south. Future studies will also identify the bus services required to cater for the additional workers and residents.

An interesting point raised within the transport discussions is the identification of future light rail routes that would service the area. This is in line with recent State funding of $600m to investigate four potential light rail options out of Parramatta. Of these four, two routes would directly provide access to the Camellia precinct. The first is a route identified from Westmead to Epping, which would run via a converted Carlingford line. The existing Camellia railway station at the western edge of the precinct would be utilised, however there would be little access provided to the employment and industrial lands more than 1km to the east.

The alternative route is from Parramatta to Strathfield via Olympic Park. This corridor passes directly through the middle of the precinct, potentially running alongside the existing freight rail corridor parallel to Grand Avenue. This would enable passengers to access Camellia without relying on the Western Line, which is currently suffering capacity issues, and give much better coverage to the Precinct than one utilising the Carlingford line.

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Potential future land use zoning
Department of Planning and Environment

 

However, there has been recent debate between Parramatta City Council and Transport for NSW (TfNSW) as to which light rail route will be chosen. In light of TfNSW seeming to favour the Parramatta to Strathfield (via Olympic Park) option as Western Sydney’s first light rail line, Parramatta Council have instead publicly thrown their support behind the Westmead to Epping route, calling the Strathfield route a future ‘ghost train’. No final decisions have yet been made.

There will be other environmental challenges faced in redevelopment of the site. With industrial uses dating back to the 1880s, including oil refineries, tanneries, metal works, and asbestos manufacturing, the majority of the precinct is identified as having medium to high contamination risks. The DPE acknowledges that remediation costs are likely to be significant, and will need to be considered as part of an economic feasibility analysis. Much of the precinct is also subject to medium and high risk flooding, which will impact how the site can be developed.

Ultimately, the redevelopment of the Precinct is a great opportunity for urban renewal in Western Sydney, but the site will face challenges in terms of its environmental constraints, and the provision of adequate transport services. Moving forward, the next stage will be for the DPE to review the submissions they receive post exhibition, and then move into the Precinct Planning (Draft Rezoning Proposal) stage. Once the government moves into this stage, final land use zones, building heights and development controls will be determined, along with a public domain strategy and final infrastructure requirements, and they will be released for public viewing. We will then get a much better understanding of what the future for Camellia holds, and how the challenges faced by the site will impact the economic feasibility of redevelopment.

 

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