Access fears for new Glebe Island exhibition site

Plans reversed … “It became clear that safety was an overriding issue…” a spokeswoman from Infastructure NSW said.THOUSANDS of visitors descending on Glebe Island for major exhibitions will be barred from walking or cycling through the site, prompting claims the plan was devised ”on the back of an envelope”.

The events industry has called on the state government to ensure NSW’s $100-million-a-year exhibition industry is not jeopardised, saying public access to the site is critical.

A temporary exhibition centre will be built at Glebe Island, in the inner west, while new facilities are developed at Darling Harbour from December to late 2016.

It would host major events such as the Sydney International Boat Show, which attracts 70,000 visitors over five days, the Good Food and Wine Show and the Reed Gift Fair.

Submissions to the proposal show Sydney Ports, which owns the land, threatened to withhold support unless authorities withdrew plans to allow pedestrian and cycle access through the site, citing serious safety concerns.

Glebe Island is a transport hub and one of Sydney’s key sites for moving and storing dry bulk goods.

More than 650 vehicles move through the site each day.

In response, Infrastructure NSW was forced to reverse plans for pedestrian and cycling activity, including pram ramps and refuge islands, before submitting a development application.

”It became clear that safety was an overriding issue given that Glebe Island remains a working port,” a spokeswoman said.

Would-be walkers and cyclists will be required to take a shuttle bus from the site’s perimeter. Others travelling to an exhibition will be confined to charter buses, private ferries and limited car access. By comparison, the existing Sydney Exhibition Centre is further serviced by light rail, taxis, pedestrian and cycle links, plus rail access from Town Hall and Central.

The Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority expressed concern over the plan, saying it ”would increase demand on a constrained transport network”.

It called for pedestrian and cycle access to be reconsidered. The authority said the plan did not address the likelihood of longer traffic queues at local intersections and ”insufficient information” was provided on access requirements for cars and buses.

Clarification was also needed on the feasibility of multiple ferry movements during peak events, the authority said.

Leichhardt Council expressed ”serious concerns about flaws in the planning” which it said could jeopardise the centre’s functioning and impact on local roads.

The mayor, Darcy Byrne, said the disused Glebe Island Bridge should be opened to allow pedestrians and cyclists access to the site, adding ”the plan … has been drawn on the back of an envelope”.

The Planning Department is assessing the proposal. Based on the low number of objections received, it is likely to be determined by a senior departmental officer rather than the Planning Minister, Brad Hazzard.

A spokeswoman for Infrastructure NSW said it would address the issues raised.

She said further work was being carried out on traffic flows in and around the precinct and event-specific traffic management plans would be developed.

The general manager of the Exhibition and Event Association of Australasia, Joyce DiMascio, said the government and the facility’s operators must ensure seamless public access to the site.

”We’ve got to get this to work. If people don’t have a good experience in the first year of operation, neither exhibitor nor visitor will return,” she said.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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