North Sydney Olympic Pool’s $48 million revamp approved despite heritage concerns


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The other changes, which have been accepted by the council, include amendments to the design of the sun-deck and entrance.

One panellist, however, objected to the council’s revised plan on grounds it “still represents an overdevelopment of the site, resulting in the heritage values being compromised”.

The long-vaunted redevelopment has been the subject of a war of words between North Sydney’s Liberal-aligned mayor, Jilly Gibson, local opponents and councillors not part of the majority voting bloc on council.

Cr Gibson said the “amazing project” had been approved “on its merits”.

“This has been seven years of blood, sweat and tears to deliver this pool for the community,” she said.

The determination follows strong opposition to the project from community members, prominent architects and three independent councillors, who had urged the planning panel to reject the most recent proposal.

The art deco brick wall at the pool, built in 1936, features scallop shells and parrots moulded from stucco.

The art deco brick wall at the pool, built in 1936, features scallop shells and parrots moulded from stucco.

“It basically means state heritage is irrelevant,” former North Sydney mayor Genia McCaffery said of the decision.

“This is demolishing a heritage item. You just can’t do that. It’s Luna Park all over again.”

Panel members Mr Debnam, Julie Savet Ward, Sue Francis and Kevin Alker voted to approve the application after protesters aired their concerns at a fiery public hearing on Wednesday. Pannelist Ken Robinson voted against it.

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In its decision, the panel found the proposal was “satisfactory” and in the public interest, as it balanced “the concerns of heritage to those of retaining and improving an important community facility for the future”.

The panellists noted community concerns over the revamp’s design, cost, potential heritage impacts and “over-commercialisation”, but they believed those problems had been “adequately addressed” by the panel’s conditions.

They shared the concerns about the lack of a shade structure over the children’s pool, but said the council insisted there would be “increased shade ‘generally’ in the new development”.

“Nevertheless, the applicant also acknowledged the desirability of a shade structure over the children’s pool, and the panel agreed that this should form part of a further application.”

But Mr Robinson disagreed with the revised plans, arguing while the pool needed upgrades, this should be done “without detriment to the heritage values of the site”.

He said shading for the children’s pool should have been developed and incorporated into the concept design, and suggested it would have been appropriate to defer the decision.

Mr Robinson also said the proposal failed to justify the public need for the demolition of the 20-year-old “architecturally important” structure housing the centre’s 25-metre pool.

Cr Gibson said the council would develop a solution for the shade-cover. She has previously stated her ambition for work to start on the project this year.

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