Narellan shopping centre expansion plan proves divisive

COMMUNITY leaders in Camden have rejected the claim by Campbelltown councillor Fred Borg that an expanded Narellan Town Centre would be unsustainable.

At last Tuesday's Campbelltown Council meeting Cr Borg brought a motion calling for his council to write to the Premier to express "concern" about the planned expansion of the Narellan shopping centre.

Cr Borg said 1973's New Cities of Campbelltown, Camden and Appin Structure Plan had stated that Macarthur Square was to be the regional centre, while Narellan was to remain merely a local centre.

However, Narellan Chamber of Commerce president Stephen Grabowski said "the game has changed" since 1973.

"Look at the infrastructure, look at the development, look at the amount of property that has been rezoned," Mr Grabowski said.

Camden mayor Lara Symkowiak agreed, saying Camden residents should have the choice to "shop and work locally . . . without having to drive down Narellan Road".

"Given the South West Growth Centre was only announced in 2004, any 40-year-old plan for Narellan is well and truly redundant now," Cr Symkowiak said.

Dart West Development's property general manager David Taylor said the big Australian retailers recognised the area's spending power.

Cr Borg told Campbelltown Council a second major shopping centre in the region would be "unsustainable".

The motion divided councillors and sparked a heated debate and will be further debated next meeting.

Cr Borg suggested a large shopping centre be built near Bringelly instead.

Liberal councillor George Greiss said it wasn't the council's place "to interfere with how goods and the market operates in Camden".

"Campbelltown Council has no business interfering with other councils. Not for a shopping centre, or a house, or anything."

Labor councillor Rudi Kolkman said Macarthur Square was vital to Campbelltown being recognised as a regional centre.

"What's proposed for Narellan gives permission for Narellan Town Centre to keep expanding and expanding and expanding."

Liberal Democrat councillor Clinton Mead said poor public transport meant Narellan wouldn't be able to compete with Macarthur Square.

Liberal councillor Paul Hawker said there was nothing wrong with the proposed Narellan development.

Mayor Sue Dobson said the decision was up to the state government. "I don't think it's our business but we need to look out for the people and businesses of Campbelltown."

A historical perspective by Jeff McGill

THIS 1973 map (above) might explain why Campbelltown councillor Fred Borg is so unhappy about the planned expansion of Narellan Town Centre.

He's been around long enough to remember The New Cities of Campbelltown, Camden and Appin Structure Plan — where this map comes from — intended, in 1973, to be the long-term master plan for all of Macarthur.

In the name of good city planning it outlined a strict hierarchy of retail centres, with there to be only one major "Regional Centre". It would be built from scratch on a greenfields site with a hospital, a university, and a major shopping centre (which of course opened in 1979 as Macarthur Square).

In its orbit there were to have been two major "Town Centres" — Camden and Appin. Then there would be a scattering of "District Centres" — such as the existing marketplaces at Mount Annan, Eagle Vale and Minto.

At the bottom of the rung were to be the smaller "Local Centres" [not even shown on this main map] — with "limited shopping facilities" and a net retail space of about 250 square metres.

Narellan was supposed to be one of these. Yet the planned expansion of Narellan Town Centre looks set to take its current 35,000-square-metres centre to, ultimately, 90,000 square metres — a "Regional Centre" in anyone's language.

As someone who knows that history, Cr Borg is likely wondering why Narellan can do what it wants, whereas Campbelltown has had to follow the rules, to its detriment, for many decades.

(The Macarthur Development Board enforced a virtual freeze on any major improvements in Campbelltown's main shopping strip in the late 1970s and 1980s, deliberately giving Macarthur Square a head start to "ensure its viability". The effects of that policy are still being felt in Queen Street today.)

But supporters of the Narellan boom might argue that they don't want to become "another Queen Street".

Many are also asking whether a masterplan from 1973 is still relevant in 2013 — particularly when that plan's maps have only white space where the Oran Park/Bringelly developments are now going ahead.

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