Phelps slams council over Surry Hills tree removal

One of 60 trees cut down for the Surry Hills Village development. Photo: Dr Kerryn Phelps/Facebook.


City of Sydney Councillor Dr Kerryn Phelps has come out swinging against the council over the removal of 60 trees for a new development in Surry Hills.

The prominent councillor, who is hoping to end Clover Moore’s 17-year reign as Sydney Lord Mayor in September’s local government elections, directly blamed the council for the trees’ destruction in a social media post today.

“Work begins today on the construction of the Surry Hills Village. While I welcome the revitalisation of the centre, I just wish it didn’t have to happen at the expense of so many trees,” Dr Phelps wrote.

“The City of Sydney allowed the developer to remove 60 trees.”

The trees’ removal comes just weeks after the City of Sydney announced its Greening Sydney 2030 plan.

Under the strategy, announced by the Lord Mayor last month, the City will plant 700 new trees per year across the local government area.

“Trees and other urban greenery are as essential as roads and broadband internet. Effective and extensive canopy cover can reduce temperatures on the ground by up to 10 degrees,” Ms Moore said in a 17 March media statement.

“We have developed this strategy to re-affirm and extend our commitment to providing a greener, cooler, calmer and more resilient City. We have set ambitious targets and will work to ensure 40 per cent of the City’s footprint is covered with greenery by 2050,” she said.

Dr Phelps said that while the City’s Greening Sydney 2030 plan was laudable, “It should be matched by actions such as the preservation of precious ‘living infrastructure’.

“Sydney deserves better.” 

She added: “Unfortunately in this case the City of Sydney have ‘recommended that a minimum of three trees be planted in the new park adjoining the new laneway.’ I don’t think that’s good enough.”

Dr Kerryn Phelps. Photo: Dr Kerryn Phelps/Facebook.

The Surry Hills Village development, which is technically located in Redfern, is a redevelopment of the former Surry Hills Shopping Village, also known as Redfern Mall – and colloquially as ‘Murder Mall’, a throwback to the area’s less salubrious past, when the shopping centre was plagued by crime. 

The project, by development group TOGA, will comprise apartments, commercial offices, retail outlets, restaurants, bars, cafés and a 102-room hotel featuring a rooftop pool and bar.

At a groundbreaking ceremony last month, TOGA managing director Allan Vidor said: “We are very proud to be leading the transformation of this important site that will be a catalyst for the future shape of Sydney’s inner city.

“Our vision is to deliver a precinct that will celebrate the authenticity of the neighbourhood whilst also bringing the energy of new people and businesses to the suburb.” 

An artist’s impression of the completed Surry Hills Village development. Image:

Ms Moore, who also attended the ceremony, was similarly enthusiastic.

“As a Redfern local, as well as Lord Mayor, I welcome the revitalisation of the old Surry Hills shopping centre as a vibrant, mixed-use development of apartments, supermarket, speciality shops and boutique hotel – bringing new life to the area and better serving the needs of the people who are living here.”

Surry Hills Village is expected to open in early 2024.