STOLEN PUBLIC SPACES
WITHIN THE GPO BY THE WESTIN SYDNEY & FAR EAST
Find out which “public spaces” have been intentionally converted to “private spaces” by Mark Burns, General Manager, The Westin Sydney, for profit by Far East and the Westin Sydney.
The Westin Sydney and its general manager Mark Burns have "privatised" access to the Martin Place Heritage Stairs by placing a sign to discourage people from exploring public spaces in the GPO.
The Westin Sydney employs security on weekends to further intimidate people from rightfully accessing the stairs and upper levels of the building.
The Heritage Stairs leading up to the upper levels of the GPO are in fact free for the public to explore.
Access to the Tunnel linking the GPO to Angel Place would give the public valuable insight into the historical operations of the building.
The GPO building was created as a building for all people. As a civic building, certain spaces were required to remain open and available for public access.
The approved heritage management plan for the GPO building that forms part of the Development Application Approval, as detailed by Ian Stapleton of Clive Lucas Stapleton and Partners dated 14 January 1999, noted that the approved uses of the building include:
“respect(ing) the historic and social aspects of the place by, for example, permitting an appropriate level of public access to areas that have a long history of public use.”
Unfortunately, the owner and operator of The Westin Hotel Sydney, The Far East Organization, has converted approved “public spaces” within the building to “private spaces” for their personal use and pleasure.
The areas in the Heritage Management Plan where public access was required to be maintained included:
- The heritage entry and grand staircase from Martin Place
- Courtyard bridges
- Banking chamber
- Controlled public access to clock tower (for tours if viable)
- The tankstream on the lower ground floor
As put by a case study sourced from the Office of Environment and Heritage, the outstanding feature of the 1997-99 redevelopment of the GPO, was its successful integration of commercial and community-oriented uses "over every level from basement to the uppermost fourth floor".
In violation of this intent, the Westin Sydney continues to take advantage of the lack of public knowledge, reinforced with intimidation tactics, to restrict the public's access to spaces they are free to explore.
Martin Place Heritage Stairs
The main heritage staircase from the Martin Place entry is regarded as the best example of mid-Victorian public building ‘imperial’ stairs in Sydney, and was reconstructed in 1999 with the idea that the public could ascend to the first floor surrounded by "visual delight and grandeur".
Sadly, Mark Burns the General Manager of the Westin Sydney intentionally breached DA conditions of approval in 2010 with a sign on the red-carpeted stairs now stating it is only for use by The Westin hotel residents and their guests. A security guard was also employed to physically stop people who do not obey the “private” sign.
The grand imperial staircase has also been turned into a money-making venture, with people who want to take photographs on the grand staircase being required to rent a room within the hotel and pay $250 to obtain a photographic license.
Tunnel to Angel Place
A tunnel exists linking the lower ground floor of the GPO building with Angel Place. This tunnel was an original entry for delivery horses and carts to enter and exit the building.
The GPO Grand Group in 2006 opened a 10 metre section of the building within Crystal Bar, linking the lower ground floor to the tunnel. Then in 2007 the GPO Grand Group opened a further 15 metre section of the building within the GPO Cheese & Wine Room, linking the east side of the lower ground floor with the tunnel.
Since 2007 and formally plans were completed in 2012, the GPO Grand Group has tried to open the tunnel for use by the public and as a further public space to be enjoyed by the public, however the previous head lease holders and now Far East Organisation refuse to grant approval for the tunnel to be opened.