The Greater Sydney Commission - Too little, too late or just in time?: a discussion on planning and development

Bartier Perry recently hosted the latest ‘City Briefing’ of the Australian Institute of Urban Studies (AIUS).

Over 50 planning and development-industry professionals attended to hear Prof Ed Blakely of Sydney University and District Commissioner for ‘West Central’ (western suburbs) give a talk entitled ‘Greater Sydney Commission - Too little, too late or just in time?’

The following is a summary of the discussion into significant changes to the planning process in NSW:

What is the Greater Sydney Commission?

The GSC is a statutory body created by the State Government in a further effort to provide a coordinated, city-wide approach to planning and development. It ties in with other changes such as the standardisation of environmental planning instruments, particularly local environmental plans (commenced in 2006) and the recent Council amalgamations, as a means of removing fragmentation between local government areas and encouraging greater consistency in strategic planning and planning decisions.

The GSC will prepare District Plans for six districts of Greater Sydney. The District Plans will sit above other environmental planning instruments. To this end, ‘fine-grained’ planning controls will remain in local environmental plans but local councils will be required to give effect to their applicable District Plan through planning proposals (for example, rezonings, changing of development standards such as building heights and FSR) and reviews of/new local environmental plans.

The GSC consists of four Greater Sydney Commissioners, being:

  • Lucy Turnbull AO – Chief Commissioner;

  • Rod Simpson – Environmental Commissioner;

  • Heather Nesbitt – Social Commissioner; and

  • Geoff Roberts – Economic Commissioner.

The Vision of the Commission is said to be:

To create a Sydney that works better for all of us.

Greater Sydney Districts

Greater Sydney is to consist of six districts, each of which will have its own commissioner and District Plan. The Districts, and their commissioners, are:

  • Central (consisting of the Local government Areas of Botany Bay, Burwood, Canada Bay, Inner West, Randwick, Strathfield, Sydney City, Waverley, Woollahra) – District Commissioner Maria Atkinson

  • West Central (Blacktown, part of Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Parramatta, The Hills) – District Commissioner Prof Ed Blakely

  • West (Blue Mountains, Hawksbury, Penrith) – District Commissioner Sean O’Toole

  • North (Hornsby, Hunters Hill, Ku-ring-gai, Lane Cove, Northern Beaches, Mosman, North Sydney, Ryde, Willoughby) – District Commissioner Dr Deborah Dearing

  • South West (Camden, Campbelltown, Fairfield, Liverpool, Wollondilly) – District Commissioner Sheridan Dudley

  • South (Georges River, Rockdale, part of Canterbury-Bankstown, Sutherland) – District Commissioner The Hon Morris Iemma

City Hubs

A focus of the District plans shall be the creation of ‘city hubs’ – basically centres of excellence for infrastructure, services and industries in strategic locations throughout Greater Sydney. An example of this is an ‘Ed-Med’ (education and medical) hub, focussing institutions of education, medical research and treatment resources in the Parramatta/Westmead area. It was suggested that these hubs will drive innovation and become world leading. The CBD will remain the Finance-Business hub.

Another concept identified was ‘The 30 Minute City’. This is a fairly well-known strategic planning concept that aims for facilities and services which cater to all of a person’s needs to be within a 30 minute drive of home.

Badgery's Creek

It was outlined that the GSC sees the second Sydney airport at Badgery’s Creek as being of major strategic significance and Prof Blakely declared that in 20 years’ time, it would be a major international airport of a size and capacity greater than London Heathrow.

Vibrant CBD

Having a vibrant CBD, day and night, was identified as important. Lock-out laws and their impacts on achieving this, were not discussed.

Parramatta, as the second CBD, is also to be a focus and earmarked for substantial future growth.

High Rise Development

Greater acceptance of high rise development is required in the community as it makes for more efficient use of our ever decreasing space. Prof Blakely asked why shouldn’t a school be located at the top of a city skyscraper? Several North American examples were provided.

Is bigger, better?

Prof. Blakely spoke at length about aiming high, expecting more and being “world-class”.

Overall the event was a success and it is hoped that the collaboration between AIUS and Bartier Perry continues at the forefront of the changing face of planning in NSW. 

Author: Steven Griffiths