By Tim Blythe | 10 Dec 2019

In July 2016 the City of Sydney unveiled the draft Central Sydney Planning Strategy (CSPS), proposing the biggest changes to planning in Central Sydney for decades. 

More than 1200 days later – after an extensive standoff between the Department of Planning and the City of Sydney, an in-principle agreement between the Minister for Planning Rob Stokes and the Lord Mayor Cr Clover Moore has been reached.

This means we are about to see real progress towards changes to Central Sydney planning in 2020.  The challenge is to ensure that the new controls are as workable for the industry as possible.

There are three key moves that will form the proposed amendments to the CSPS:

  1.  Removal of the proposed 50 per cent cap on residential accommodation, instead removing the existing residential accommodation floor space bonus in the LEP.
  2. Removal of the need to achieve height and floor space uplift via a site-specific planning proposal process and replace this with changes to the Sydney LEP with an additional design excellence pathway in four mapped tower cluster areas, allowing for up to 50 per cent additional floor space and height where development demonstrates design excellence.
  3. Preparation of a new contributions plan to help fund the delivery of new public infrastructure, replacing the previously proposed contribution provisions in the strategy with fixed contributions under section 7.12 of the EP&A Act.

As part of the Property Council’s Central Sydney Taskforce, we had the benefit of attending a meeting with senior representatives of the Minister’s office, Department of Planning and City of Sydney to learn firsthand the proposed approaches. Our key take outs are:

The Good

  • The imbedding of FSR and building height uplift in the LEP for the tower cluster areas is a good step forward and overcomes some of the red tape and extended planning process associated with relying on site specific Planning Proposals to facilitate growth.
  • Removal of the blanket 50 per cent floor space cap for residential towers, which a blunt and arbitrary means to control residential development.
  • A comprehensive approach to dealing with the cumulative impact of development levies as opposed to the current layering of many different contributions. This will also mean that levies for additional floor space will not be imposed but instead levies will be captured through a percentage of the project development cost.

The Not So Good

  • If your land isn’t mapped in a Tower Cluster area, then you’re still forced to go down the Planning Proposal pathway. The approach favours super towers and ignores the many opportunities to achieve incremental floor space growth all of which would support the strategic intent.
  • The 50 per cent FSR uplift is unlikely to enough to be an incentive to follow a DA pathway, with allowable FSR’s still being less than 20 to 1. In other words, even if you are fortunate enough to be in a mapped area, the incentive under the LEP may not be sufficient and will force a proponent down the site-specific Planning Proposal anyway.
  • The removal of the accommodation floor space provisions for residential development depending on how it is implemented could act as a major disincentive to residential floorspace to an equal or greater extent than the previous proposal to impose a 50 per cent floor space cap.
  • The revised new approach to a development contributions plan for Central Sydney opens the door for a comprehensive review and likely increase in the long standing 1 per cent development levy imposed under section 61 of the City of Sydney Act.

The Minister for Planning wants to see immediate progression of the strategy implementation and the preparation of the draft LEP. This is expected to be presented to the Central Sydney Planning Committee in early February 2020, with a desire by both levels of government to have this strategy adopted and the LEP approved by the end of 2020.

Urbis will be hosting a seminar in late February to outline our views and implications. Please keep an eye out for more information. 

Contact our #cityshaper experts if you have any questions. 

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Header image by Eggzy Pallet from Unsplash