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A review of the Central Sydney Planning Strategy

The City of Sydney Council has released its Central Sydney Planning Strategy. JBA’s Alexis Cella provides us with a high level overview of the Strategy.

Photography: Daniel Pantelas

After much anticipation, speculation, hypothesising, and crystal ball gazing, it has finally landed. The City of Sydney Council has released its Central Sydney Planning Strategy [refer to Item 4].

At the core of the Strategy is a message that 2.9 million square metres of floor space will be unlocked, over 100,000 jobs delivered, and capacity created for 300-520 new affordable housing apartments. These headline figures underpin the resounding key aim of the Strategy to position and strengthen Sydney as Australia’s leading global city. This will be achieved through protecting and growing employment generating land uses (and in doing so re-focusing a perceived bias towards residential development).

Source: JBA

Three years in the making and in a suite of comprehensive background documents, the Central Sydney Planning Strategy is to set to be the guide for growth in Sydney over the next 20 years. The Strategy proposes sweeping changes to the planning framework in Central Sydney, setting new development controls for Sydney Local Environmental Plan 2012 (LEP) and Sydney Development Control Plan 2012 (DCP), contributions provisions and planning processes which will shape our city.

One of the biggest ticket items of the Strategy and detailed within the planning proposal relates to proposed changes to density and land use provisions, and ultimately development potential.

Below is our summary of the key hard facts:

Key proposed changes to planning controls:

  • Introduction of a cap of 50% residential floor space in all development over 55 metres in height.
  • Changes to Floor Space Ratio (FSR) controls to remove incentive for residential and serviced apartment development.
  • Changes to Sun Access Planes and deletion of exceptions to Sun Access Planes.
  • Additional public spaces included in the ‘Overshadowing of certain public spaces’ clause.
  • Introduction of a new clause protecting public views (Central Station, Martin Place and Observatory Hill).
  • Increases of maximum building heights in part of the Western Corridor from 80 to 110 metres.
  • Minimum site area for buildings greater than 55 metres in height will be increased to 1000sqm (currently 800sqm).
  • Requirement for office premises to achieve a minimum rating of 5 star NABERS Energy rating.
  • Requirement for BASIX affected development utilising accommodation floor space to achieve an additional 5 BASIX points in water and energy above the State-mandated target.
  • Introduction of affordable housing contributions.
  • Updates to DCP provisions including podium heights and setbacks.

Floor Space

  • The base FSR in Central Sydney is retained (i.e. 8:1)
  • The design excellence bonus appears to be retained for up to 10% additional floor space.

‘Accommodation Floor Space’ in the CBD:

  • Accommodation floor space over the base 8:1 is now simplified to any land use.
  • New Areas: 
    • Area 1: Core CBD (combined) – Existing Areas 1 and 2
    • Area 2:  Western Corridor – Existing Area 3
    • Area 3:  Haymarket/Broadway – Existing Area 4
  • New FSR:
    • Area 1: Additional 4.5:1 for all land uses
    • Area 2: Additional 2:1 for all land uses
  • Heritage Floor Space (HFS) requirements retained with 50% of the accommodation floor space to be purchased as HFS.

New ‘Key Use’ floor space:

  • Area 1 & 2: Additional 1.5:1 for hotel and motel accommodation, community facilities, child care uses.
  • Area 3: Additional 1.5: for office premises, business premises, retail premises, hotel and motel accommodation, community facilities, child care uses.
  • 50% of the key use floor space to be purchased as HFS.
Above: City of Sydney Map. Source: JBA

To download a pdf file of the above map click here.

Residential Development Cap - 50%

  • New provision applying to development greater than 55 metres in height.
  • Residential uses cannot exceed 50% of the total floor space (base + accommodation and key use + design excellence bonus).
  • Exception where existing level of residential uses exceed the 50% and are not proposed to be increased.

Affordable Housing

  • New affordable housing contribution regime to be introduced.
  • Staged implementation from June 2018, with contributions ratcheting up from 1 June 2020.
  • Similar to the existing regime in place at Green Square.
Figure 1

Strategic Sites

The Strategy identifies a mechanism to achieve ‘Strategic Floor Space’ (meaning floor space and height that exceeds existing controls) in the medium (2017 – 2036) to long term.

There are however some significant caveats in place in that it will only be for employment uses and only applying to select ‘strategic sites’. There are three strategic sites identified for the medium term, with a fourth future precinct also identified for the longer term [see map].

Based on our analysis, these strategic sites represent those areas of the City that have the most capacity to accommodate additional density after applying the filters of sun access planes and public view corridors.

The Strategy requires individual land owners to come forward with site specific planning proposals in order to unlock these strategic sites for height and floor space (such as AMP Quay Quarter, 60 Martin Place, and Lend Lease Circular Quay Tower). A guideline that has not yet been released will provide a framework for preparing and assessing site-specific planning proposals. The purpose of the guideline has been identified to:

  1. Provide a framework for sharing the planning gain resulting from changes to planning controls to fund infrastructure delivery;
  2. Provide land use and built form principles to guide the preparation of site specific planning proposal requests;
  3. Provide a transparent and consistent approach to the evaluation of site-specific planning proposal requests;
  4. Describe the City’s priorities for infrastructure to support growth; and
  5. Describe the process for preparing a site-specific planning proposal request, including required supporting documentation, applicable fees, preparation of planning agreement and the decision making process.

The content of the guideline will be critical for affected landowners to understand the project implications. What is clear is that any value increase in a site from greater densities will be equally shared between the landowner/developer and the public.

Other Key Slated Policy Changes

Council is also seeking the assistance of the State Government to implement the changes to the LEP, primarily requesting the following:

  • Expand the Sydney Local Environmental Plan 2012 and controls for Central Sydney to include The Rocks, Central Station, Darling Harbour and Central Park
  • A new section 117 Direction limiting any new additional floor space in Central Sydney to employment generating floor space
  • Revise State-Significant Development thresholds for the City of Sydney to be the consent authority instead of the Department of Planning and Environment

Next Steps

Following consideration and expected endorsement of the Strategy and proposed amendments to planning controls during the upcoming July round of Council meetings, the Strategy and amendments will be (following Gateway Determination) be placed on public exhibition. Exhibition is expected to take place towards the end of September/early October 2016.

These are exciting times ahead for our City.

JBA will be undertaking a forensic analysis of the Strategy and changes to the planning landscape for Central Sydney – please contact Andrew Duggan, Clare Swan, Alexis Cella, Brendan Hoskins, Michael Rowe, Yvette Carr or Samantha Miller on 02 9956 6962 to find out how these changes might impact your site.

If you are keen to find out more from our team of Central Sydney experts, JBA will be hosting an event on the Central Sydney Planning Strategy on the 28th of July - places are limited. To secure your spot please contact Amelia Gammo