Much of Greater Sydney and Wollongong’s population growth in the next 30 years will be in existing urban areas. As a Diocese, we need to look at our existing church buildings and properties and determine their adequacy for the anticipated growth and changing in our society. We also need to look at how to activate and develop our properties to better interact with the communities in which we reside to facilitate ministry and evangelism.
As a Diocese we have not had an urban renewal strategic plan. Development in urban renewal areas has always been in response to parishes proposing developments.
However, with 70% of our catchment populations coming from existing urban area infill and renewal, it is now imperative that we take a more strategic approach in these areas. As a result, the Growth Corporation will prepare an Urban Renewal Strategic Plan to identify the priority areas for ministry enhancement, particularly those which require property development in order to prepare for growth. This will also better inform projects to be added to the Urban Renewal Pilot Program referred to below.
It is important that income generating developments on church sites also have a land use consistent with the Anglican Church mission and ethos. Where appropriate, land uses such as Social and Affordable Housing (SAF), student housing, child care, aged care and mental health care would take precedence over general residential or commercial uses. Irrespective of where parishes come on the priority list of this Urban Renewal Strategic Plan, it should not prevent them from pursuing ministry and evangelism initiatives involving property augmentation or from learning from other parishes in similar contexts with similar mission goals. However, the Strategic Plan will prioritise the availability of Diocesan funding for these developments to ensure that our funds are directed to where they will have the greatest impact.
The Urban Renewal Pilot Program is a key initiative to attempt to kick-start high-priority ministry-related developments.
Many parishes have not begun development projects because of perceptions of a complex process to enable construction to start and a lack of funding to get development approval, let alone construction. The pilot program will attempt to address these constraints for a limited number of projects so that the Growth Corporation can provide the Diocese with confidence that these projects can be developed in a more streamlined way while still effectively managing the Diocesan risks.
The Pilot Program commenced in the second quarter of 2020 and, assuming all goes well, we will add to it in years to come. The pilot has only been made possible by partnering with the Sustainable Development Group (SDG). SDG has brought to the Diocese innovation in the planning, designing and funding of urban renewal church developments.
This action is just as important in for Urban Renewal initiatives as it is for the Greenfields initiatives.
It is important that any property development is linked to a strong and well-thought-out ministry/evangelism plan. Without this, it is irresponsible of the Growth Corporation to support the investment of limited finances.
The Growth Corporation is working with the Bishops and parishes to identify ministry and evangelism plans that have been developed and implemented and have been associated with real growth. The aim is to share these across the Diocese so that any parish considering property enhancements will know what “good” looks like in terms of ministry / evangelism planning.
As a result of the above, the Growth Corporation will provide advice to Standing Committee on whether the quality and likely outcomes of the ministry/evangelism plans are commensurate with the type and scale of investment proposed for property development. The Growth Corporation will provide advice to Standing Committee on the strategic value of properties for the purposes of implementing the Diocesan Mission with a focus on the wider strategic value to the Diocese and with a preference for developing existing property to enable it to fulfil its potential for ministry, rather than selling.
The Growth Corporation has received feedback that the current guidelines for property development are too cumbersome and difficult to understand for wardens and lay people. To assist with understanding, Diocesan property staff have held workshops with parishes which have been effective, but there is potential to amend the current guidelines to make them more user-friendly and interactive. This is an initiative the Growth Corporation will undertake following the development of the Greenfields and Urban Renewal Strategic Plans.
The issue of heritage buildings is both a blessing and a curse for the Sydney Diocese. The blessing is that we can celebrate the strong heritage and influence our ancestors have had on Sydney for over 200 years. The curse is that planning agencies list our buildings and sites as being of significant heritage value, but provide no assistance in maintaining these “assets”.
The Growth Corporation will take a strategic approach, negotiating a position with State Government and relevant Local Governments to provide greater flexibility for managing these buildings and properties. We will also push for the provision of grants to assist in the upkeep of heritage buildings that are no longer appropriate for ministry. The Growth Corporation at first instance will negotiate a position with State Government in relation to churches listed as heritage items under the Heritage Act 1977 (State listings). The Growth Corporation will also assist parishes with local heritage items on an item by item basis when development or change of use is proposed.
This initiative is a lower priority, but at some stage we as a Diocese will need to review our Parish boundaries. These were established decades ago and Greater Sydney’s population and land-uses continue to change.
We need to critically review whether the current parish boundaries facilitate or stall mission. We currently have parishes ranging from total population catchments of less than 3,000 people to some nearing 70,000 people. With the ideal catchment around the 15,000 person mark, some areas are stretched, while others are over-serviced. A review of boundaries will allow us to allocate resources more effectively for ministry, particularly in less-resourced areas.