By Tim Blythe | 4 Aug 2016

We were delighted to welcome Graham Jahn, Sydney City Council’s Director of Planning, Development and Transport, and more than 100 guests to our Sydney office on Tuesday 2 August.

The new Central Sydney Planning Strategy, which paves the way for the biggest change to city planning for more than 30 years, was up for discussion.

Graham, together with Urbis Directors Tim Blythe and Andrew Harvey and Associate Director Alison Brown, looked at the potential impact of the Strategy. Here we outline the key take-aways from the event. 


The Strategy’s aims and opportunities:

  • A new strong focus on non-residential development to support employment growth is to be played out with the introduction of a 50 per cent cap on residential development in tower buildings (ie buildings over 55 metres in height).
  • Graham emphasised Sydney’s commitment to employment growth and reinforced the key aim of the strategy was to position and strengthen Sydney as Australia’s global city. The shift to residential development over the past two decades has been at the expense of vital commercial floor space.
  • The Strategy has a multi-dimensional focus and ensuring ‘Liveability’ is the foremost objective, in tandem with setting up Sydney to transform to a more service-based economy, anchored in export earnings and global competitiveness.
  • Sectors where the city can foster the conversion of professional services to export earners include health, education and tourism.

Taller buildings:

  • One of the biggest upheavals to city planning will be the allowance for taller buildings and flexibility in floor space ratios on ‘strategic opportunity’ or ‘tower cluster sites’.
  • Very tall towers which may be built on select sites that do not overshadow public spaces or impact on important views and heritage areas, will be commercial only floor space.
  • There will be opportunities for very tall towers, up to 310 metres in height, for non-residential uses and floor space ratios will be determined by individual, site specific, built form outcomes. These opportunities will not be enshrined in the base planning provisions, but instead would need to be the subject of site specific amendments to the Local Environmental Plan. Key guidelines for this process are yet to be released.
  • There are three areas earmarked as being suitable for these towers over the next 20 or more years, however significant site, design and sustainability attributes will be required to be satisfied to ensure a high standard of amenity.
  • Tapered tower profiles are indicated as preferable and therefore a challenge to industry will be the suitability of floor plates for commercial development.

The challenge is for the market to adapt, but how quickly? Should some transition time be built into the process? We will keep you updated as the Strategy develops.

Such changes will create a very different Sydney than the current city which has in recent years seen a significant shift to residential development at the expense of commercial floor space.

The new model of mixed use development proposed in the strategy, with a limitation of residential to 50 per cent of floor area, is a notably different approach. It’s likely industry will be faced with existing structural barriers to this development type, including the structure and mandate of investment funds and future development flexibility.

There are international examples of integrated mixed use developments. However, few of them provide such a limitation on residential component. The challenge is for the market to adapt, but how quickly? Should some transition time be built into the process? We will keep you updated as the Strategy develops.

For further information, see A new era for mixed use development in Sydney CBD or get in touch with one of our experts.

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