The City of Sydney has proposed new planning rules that aim to transform the Oxford Street precinct by creating more employment and cultural floor space. The new draft planning rules, which were recently endorsed unanimously by Council, will unlock redevelopment opportunities, encourage investment, stimulate business, and activate streets and laneways. 

The proposed controls could create more than 42,500sqm of employment floor space and 11,000sqm of new creative and cultural floor space along Oxford Street from Greens Road, Paddington to Whitlam Square, Surry Hills. 

The draft planning rules are expected to activate the precinct’s day and night economy, while protecting its significant heritage and character, Lord Mayor Clover Moore said. 

While Oxford Street is one of Sydney’s best-known streets, it has faced significant troubles in the recent past, mainly from the massive shopping centres constructed at either end of the strip as well as online shopping, which has hurt its retailers, Cr Moore observed. Additionally, the pandemic-induced lock-outs have hurt its bars and clubs while the clearway has created fast-flowing through-traffic that has made it a less pleasant place to be. 

“We’re breathing new life into the fabulous strip with innovative controls to support growth and diversity, protect heritage and character and promote both day and night-time economies – all while ensuring the development cultural space, such as new basement bars and space for creatives. 

“The community has made it clear that we need to preserve and celebrate Oxford Street’s history as a sacred walking track for the Gadigal and the heart of Sydney’s LGBTIQ community, while safeguarding its future, particularly as we ready to welcome World Pride 2023. 

“Renewing our planning rules will help reinforce Oxford Street’s creative and cultural possibilities. We're committed to building on its reputation as an iconic gay and lesbian precinct and a centre of buzzing activity both day and night, with space for thriving businesses, creatives and culture,” she added. 

Welcoming the proposed planning changes, Mardi Gras CEO Albert Kruger said, “Oxford Street holds special significance for the LGBTIQ communities of Sydney. As well as being the spiritual home of the annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade, Oxford Street has been a sanctuary for our community to come together for many decades.” 

The City of Sydney’s planning proposal seeks changes to the Sydney Local Environmental Plan and Sydney Development Control Plan to create the dedicated Oxford Street cultural and creative precinct. 

It will support development sympathetic to the heritage character to: 

  • retain existing entertainment, creative and cultural floor space within the precinct
  • encourage new creative and cultural floor space by allowing extra floor space and height
  • encourage entertainment floor space at basement level
  • protect the structural integrity of heritage items and provide appropriate upper level setbacks
  • allow additional uses at the National Art School to support its continued educational and cultural role, and to diversify the range of supporting commercial and entertainment activities
  • provide floor space ratio increase from 0.9:1 to 1:1 at the National Art School to support its redevelopment
  • promote uses at street level to attract pedestrian traffic balanced with the need to service sites
  • require large sites to activate laneways with small retail or food and drink, tenancies, opportunities for art and improved pedestrian amenity
  • promote food and drink premises in ground level tenancies fronting open space
  • expand the Oxford Street heritage conservation area to include 276-278 Crown Street. 

The proposed changes will encourage office and retail premises, entertainment spaces, healthcare services, information and education facilities, hotel accommodation, community facilities and light industry along Oxford Street.