Sunday, April 19, 2009

Newtown Station

Historic Newtown Station

The Mayor was recently invited to a discussion at the Newtown RSL (I can't bring myself to call it Petersham RSL or worse, @Newtown), called by the Newtown Business Precinct to discuss the state of Newtown Station and surrounds. Railcorp, the RTA and the NSW Government were all invited, but only Deputy Premier and local member Carmel Tebutt showed up, representing, according to the organisers, the absent organisations. The Deputy Premier herself was quite clear (perhaps wisely) that she was not representing the government agencies, promising only to pass on any messages received. Also present were the mayor of half of Newtown (and Marrickville), Sam Iskandar, and Councillor John McInerney, representing Clover Moore, mayor of the other half of Newtown (and the City of Sydney).

Railcorp Property adjacent to Newtown Station
The meeting started with an effective presentation from the organisers, using photos similar to the above, highlighting what a shambles Newtown station was; and wanting to know what had happened to the NSW government promise of making Newtown Station the first all-access station in the state seat of Marrickvile (which covers most of Newtown). 
A more general discussion was held on the run down state of surrounding properties, bus-stop over-crowding and the dangerous nature of high-speed King Street (outside of peak hours at any rate). Owners of local pub The Bank described the extensive delays caused to their renovations by the difficulties of negotiation with Railcorp, compulsory when renovating properties adjacent to Railcorp property.

Dead kebabery under the mayor's office on Railcorp property
The late arriving Deputy Premier had done her homework and was able to provide the latest information. In a nutshell: 
  • Existing Railcorp plans for Newtown Station access (which ALP election promises were based on) basically consisted of dropping a lift down from the station entrance to the platform. * Further studies had concluded that this approach was not feasible due to the narrowness of the platform
  • A new plan was being prepared based on extending the entrance concourse further over the rail lines. This new solution would be significantly more expensive than that planned.
  • It was highly unlikely that Railcorp would spend any money cleaning up the area or making plans for the station and adjoining property while this process was ongoing - this in response to an audience suggestion to use them as artists galleries or cafes while plans were ongoing.
  • Next planning phase was due to complete mid-year (3-6 months) after which she would report back to the community on the scope of the latest plans.

Newtown Station and abandoned tram sheds
Questions were also asked about the future of the tram sheds and associated land. Apparently the sheds had been sold off by the previous government to a developer but the deal had gone bad and ended up in the courts. Any further decision on their future was pending the outcome of legal proceedings due 'soon'. I have my own idea on what could be done with this property which I will be sharing soon.

Tram sheds from Angel Street
Your mayor will be attending the follow meeting and will inform everyone of the outcome. In the meantime, if you've got any ideas on what should be done with the station and surrounding properties, including the tram sheds, please share them here.


  1. Council has an easy solution available: just massively increase the rates every year, for every derelict or boarded up property. At least there is an incentive for the landlord to turn them over to local use cheaply, unless and until they can sell or redevelop. These shops could easily be converted into cheap artspace / low cost boutiques for up and coming designers. Same goes for Erko Rd.

  2. @Anonymous An interesting idea - do you know of any councils that have successfully applied that approach ? Councillor McInerney certainly wasn't volunteering this at the meeting !

    On a related note, I've often wondered what rights (if any) councils have to mandate retrospective compliance on buildings that were built in complete disregrard to existing zoning laws. Many Telstra exchanges being classic examples.

    @StubbornMule - Petersham Station is a lovely classic old building but is looking a bit tacky (if not in Newtown's league) through lack of use. In fact it would be a great candidate for conversion to a gallery and cafe - like Mudgee station, although the train lines are no longer active, or a pub - like the Station Bar at Byron. Maybe the Mayor of Petersham could lobby for it to be converted ?

  3. Just wondering if you know what the plans (if any) are there for the buildings next to Newtown train station you have been referring to? Are they going to be absorbed into the planned upgrade of the train station and used by State Rail or will there be an opportunity for development in the future? Why exactly have these building remained derelict for so long? And what is the deal with The Hub in regards to that also? Do you know why is no-one able to rent and upgrade these buildings and where does the Council stand on this? A lot of long time Newtown residents have often wondered about this...

  4. Hey Anon -

    The buildings will be upgraded as part of the planned renovations - but won't be part of the station, rather to be rented. They were always available for rent, but only for short term leases (6 months) which wasn't a great inducement to invest in repairs; pending the finalisation of plans.

    I can't see any reason why Railcorp would need to keep hold of them after they've been done up though.

    Hub is another story; check out my posting from a few months ago.

  5. There is a lot of wasted land at Newtown station, both adjacent to the station and over the lines themselves.

    City Rail could redevelop the entire site like they have at St Leonards and Chatswood, upgrade the station, add shops and/or apartments over the top and probably earn a lot of money in the process.

    The proposed new canopy is hardly the best use of space, all we get for it is a new lift, and by the Deputy Premier's own admission it will cost a lot more than the original proposal.