Following the NSW Government approving the City of Sydney’s new planning framework, attention now turns to how the city looks to grow as it emerges from the pandemic.

The new framework will allow for new construction opportunities for buildings over 300 metres in certain areas. It also encourages public space creation, and emphasises the pedestrian experience, public art and increased greening.

City of Sydney Director of City Planning, Development & Transport, Graham Jahn, says that the unique nature of Sydney has forced the council to think differently in its approach to future planning.

“Central Sydney has an important role to play in maintaining national income and prosperity, but unlike many other cities, it has limited physical growth potential with public gardens and harbour on three sides and Central Station to the south.

“In 2012-14 we began a place-based planning study to examine what made central Sydney special as a place, including public harbour views, the foreshore, parks and places. We looked at where major transport was to be provided and precisely mapped winter sun access to public places. The result was an understanding of where additional floor space could be found for non-residential uses beyond what the statutory plan already permitted.

“Some of the floor space was found by going taller in certain locations, and some was found by heading south towards Central railway and Haymarket. The City of Sydney’s new framework sets out four tower cluster precincts within Central Sydney.”

Graham Jahn AM City of Sydney

Council has already begun to transform a number of streets into dedicated public spaces, with the framework indicating that some streets will become shared spaces with service vehicles, while others may be closed to traffic. Jahn says while employers have much of the responsibility in bringing workers back to the office, City of Sydney certainly has a role to play.

“There is an opportunity for central Sydney to continue to attract additional national and regional headquarters and to reconfigure or replace poorly performing office buildings which do little to attract office workers to come into the city,” he says.

“While work/life patterns are expected to shift post pandemic, business is considering how to factor the price of the commute and working face-to-face with colleagues. Fine grain controls for ground floor, basement and first floors ensure streets are activated and enhanced, and not made sterile by new development that is supported by this framework.”

Despite the long shadows taller buildings cast, many public spaces in Sydney are legally protected from overshadowing during certain hours. City of Sydney has looked to ensure that buildings over 300m will only be created within certain areas in order to ensure public spaces aren’t overshadowed.

“Besides the height terrain shaped by extended sun access planes, the planning framework introduces protected view planes from public places and requires that development not obstruct important public views,” Jahn says when asked about how the changes benefit the built environment.

“The design excellence provisions require competitive processes for larger buildings over a defined height, area or cost. In tower cluster precincts, where additional height and floor space is available, the competitive process includes input from a mix of Australian, emerging and sustainability expertise within gender equity teams.

“Towers that take advantage of the new plan must have the highest environmental performance, as set out in the approved framework.”

city of sydney new planning framework

A number of new projects have been designed with the new framework in mind, including builds at 2 Chifley Square, 187 Thomas Street and 133 Castlereagh Street. Developer contributions have also been increased from 1 percent to 3 percent, which will see more funding allocated towards community infrastructure and the creation of quality public spaces.

Jahn says the changes made to the framework have been created with the unique nature of the harbour city in mind.

“The influx of high value residential development over the past 20 years has reduced opportunities for commercial, retail, cultural and hotel accommodation, despite the significant public transport investment.

“Our changes seek to rebalance the incentives for residential and stimulate the consolidation of poorer sites for income earning uses. The scheme is not borrowed from any overseas city and represents a significant evolution of the previous planning framework, which is site specific.

“For the first time, there is now a clear guide for considering proposals to vary the controls, providing specific objectives are met.  A streamlined approval pathway for the four tower cluster precincts allows objectives to be complied with.”

To view the new planning framework, click here.