Opinion: Design Innovation Needed For Central Sydney Planning Strategy, Michael Banak


Earlier this year, the City of Sydney issued the Central Sydney Planning Strategy outlining the city’s plan to deal with growth in accordance with economic, social and environmental responsibilities.

The plan endeavours to enhance the public domain with updated development controls and to convert the previously statutory based planning system to an innovative urban design based plan.

With the introduction of the Central Sydney Planning Strategy comes the opportunity for greater innovation in design.

This plan comes at a critical point for the city, with population growth currently fast outstripping the supply of available housing stock, and crucial liveability factors reportedly on the decline.

It’s common for architects to be wary of prescriptive planning laws, with concern these may run the risk of stifling creativity and innovation in design. However, the Central Sydney Planning Strategy is different, offering detailed and considered solutions (identified as ‘10 key moves’) currently restricting the city’s liveability and affordability.

Without these 10 moves in place, Sydney could become an overly dense city with the wrong mix of uses that would ultimately risk damaging the urban fabric of the city.

The following moves in particular show the strategy’s key strengths, which will encourage industry innovation, and promote the interests of central Sydney residents:
Mixed-use developments will become a priority
A highly functional and well-designed ground plane is essential to good urban design, a point that’s encapsulated in move one of the planning strategy.

Move one emphasises the importance of mixed-use developments through the implementation of controls that will limit the residential and serviced apartment floor space in large developments to a maximum of 50 per cent. This control offers the key benefit of ensuring that as Sydney’s population grows there is the office floor space required to accommodate.

It’s our belief that a global city is one that embraces mixed-use developments and diversity and allows for a 24-hour city. With the wrong plan and a poor mix, parts of Sydney may be left dormant at various times of the day.
Sustainable targets will be met
The recently released plan addresses the need for managing growth in infrastructure, roads and transport and for promoting sustainability that would thereby reduce our carbon footprint. By designing precincts and buildings close to public transport and existing city infrastructure, we can lessen congestion on our roads and build public spaces where people genuinely want to spend time for business and leisure.

By rejuvenating our existing building stock, celebrating our heritage, protecting our parks and plazas, and creating a wonderful public realm, we can create spaces that surprise and delight.
Employment opportunities will grow
The planning strategy seeks to improve employment opportunities and industries in multiple ways. Not only are large developments (those over 55 metres) required to dedicate a minimum 50 per cent floor space to office space, move four of the strategy promotes the creation of new ‘tower clusters’ to provide employment growth.

By increasing height limits on buildings (height limits along the Western Edge will increase from 80 metres to 110 metres) growth opportunities for employment floor space can be realised, without compromising on residential land space. We agree this will further create opportunities for cultural, social infrastructure, and improve existing public spaces. By 2036 when new tower clusters will have formed, central Sydney will be host to thousands of new homes and jobs.
The approvals process will be streamlined
Move three of the strategy seeks to consolidate and simplify planning controls by integrating disconnected precincts back into the city and streamlining processes. This move will see the geographic boundaries of central Sydney expand to also include to the Rocks, Darling Harbour, areas around Ultimo, the University of Technology Sydney and Central Railway.

While this move is undoubtedly a win for industry figures who have struggled with disjointed approval processes, this move will also ensure the needs of the general public are being delivered in line with strategy. With a larger geographic area, central Sydney can present a more united front and contribute significantly towards the City’s Sustainable Sydney 2030 program and the NSW Government’s A Plan for Growing Sydney.

It is hoped that with a single consent authority, public confidence in local planning decisions can be increased.



Michael Banak has 20 years of architectural experience and manages a number of design and documentation teams for projects in Australia and overseas. He specialises in overseas project collaborations, façade technology and Environmentally Sustainable Design. Michael is a principal at Rothelowman.

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