By Tim Blythe | 19 Jul 2016

The City of Sydney is set to consider The Central Sydney Planning Strategy, a significant package of planning and development reforms, at its Committee meetings this week.  

The long awaited policy proposes to deliver a resilient global city centre by setting a striking priority for employment growth in the city.  This will be achieved with a strong bias to commercial floor space, by limiting residential development and providing incentives for employment generating uses.

UPDATE:  Visit our Central Sydney Planning Strategy Update for the latest on this topic

It is our view that the proposed changes represent a substantial departure from the existing integrated mixed-use development models in Australia and signals a significant shift in product for owners, developers and financiers.

Here at Urbis, we have commenced analysis of the proposed strategy and its extensive range of supporting studies. It is our view that the proposed changes represent a substantial departure from the existing integrated mixed-use development models in Australia and signals a significant shift in product for owners, developers and financiers. 

The strategy is likely to be endorsed by council next week. The challenge for the property industry is to adapt to the new development landscape. Understanding the extent of the changes and their implications is crucial.  Now is the time for prospective developers, design professionals and planners to consider the new paradigms for site potential, planning requirements and building controls.

The strategy is underpinned by concepts to increase commercial activity, protect and enhance public spaces and heritage, improve city connectivity, promote sustainable buildings, and secure higher levels of amenity for city residents and users.

It will be implemented, in the short term, by amending local planning provisions, to introduce:

  • A maximum limit of 50% residential floor space in buildings over 55 metres in height. 

  • New floor space and height incentives for ‘commercial only’ buildings.

  • Taller buildings in parts of the city but with increased building separation, new setback criteria and larger site size controls.

  • More comprehensive sun access, view corridor and wind impact controls.

  • Stronger environmental sustainability and efficiency requirements, including 5 star NABERS ratings in commercial buildings and higher BASIX ratings in residential development with FSRs greater than 8:1.

  • New special character area controls and enhanced provisions for heritage buildings and street level design requirements.

  • Stronger design excellence provisions.

  • New affordable housing levies, to be phased in by 2018.

  • Potential value capture upgrades, based on a review of the development contributions plan.


One of the most significant opportunities will revolve around the increased height and FSR potential on proposed cluster sites.

The city will also be seeking to increase its reach of planning control to include The Rocks, Darling Harbour and Central park, as well as review the thresholds for State Significant Development.

One of the most significant opportunities to come from the Central Sydney Strategy will revolve around the increased height and FSR opportunities on proposed cluster sites   However, the planning approach for these sites seems to largely fall under the proposed new draft Guideline to Preparing Site-Specific Planning Proposal Requests in Central Sydney.   That document is yet to be released but is proposed to be publicly exhibited with the Planning Proposal.  Urbis will keep you informed of its content and implications

Key locations for future higher density. Image Credit: City of Sydney's Central Sydney Planning Strategy p20

The expected timeline for introduction of new planning provisions is swift.  Once council endorses the strategy, a planning proposal will be forwarded to the Greater Sydney Commission with the public exhibition of documents potentially commencing in November 2016.  Any future development applications or planning proposals from that time will need to take the draft provisions into consideration.

The estimated timeframe for the completion of the Planning Proposal is expected to take up to a year. However the changes may need to be incorporated into development proposals as early as November 2016.

Urbis’ creative community of practice experts, working in the areas of planning, design and property economics, is undertaking a detailed examination of the reform package. Our aim is to guide you through the process and keep you alerted to further developments.  We look forward to working in collaboration with you, our clients, and the industry to help shape Central Sydney. 

For any related queries, please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our planning and property experts below:

Tim Blythe View Profile
Murray Donaldson View Profile
Andrew Harvey View Profile
Alison Brown View Profile
Ian Cady View Profile
Stephen White View Profile
Clinton Ostwald View Profile
Lester Alvis View Profile
Stephen Davies View Profile