Building heights go up but residents could be forced out of Sydney CBD: Tom Forrest

Building heights go up but residents could be forced out of Sydney CBD: Tom Forrest
Staff reporterDecember 7, 2020


The Urban Taskforce welcomes the move to increase height limits in the city of Sydney. Sydney Tower has set the cap since 1981, and it is high time that was removed.

The new cap established by Clover Moore and Rob Stokes of 330m in the CBD is sensible. But the additional height appears to be biased towards commercial development. The Urban Taskforce calls on both State and Local Governments to continue to support mixed use development and keep Sydney alive, 24 hours a day.

This announcement effectively reverses the “Living Sydney” philosophy, established by Hon Frank Sartor and Hon Lucy Turnbull, which kick-started the Sydney CBD after years of inactivity prior to the Sydney Olympics. As Lord Mayor, Clover Moore herself became a champion of the live-work-play “24-hour city”. A mix of retail, commercial and residential building uses is critical to this.

This new plan includes in the fine print a concerning shift away from residential development in the CBD of Sydney, and it is not consistent with what the City of Sydney proposed to the Government in its plans.

After the IPC and the Department of Planning’s failure to support jobs and investment with its decision in the Ritz Carlton Hotel proposal in Pyrmont, this could be another blow to the growth of Sydney.

It was anti resident rules that turned the Sydney CBD into a ghost town, pocked with empty holes in the ground and half-built buildings like World Square in the 1990s.

The Government has just reversed its last effort to kill the Sydney night-time economy through its licensing law restrictions – and now the Planning Minister appears to be trying to return sections of the CBD to an empty wind tunnel without people after dark.

Residents in the city enliven the city. The live-work-play 24-hour city thrives where there is mixed use.

The activation of Sydney’s CBD south of Market Street is there because of the Living Sydney vision which included mixed-use high-rise development. North of Market Street, the city is still dead after dark, except for the Rocks area where there is activation through high rise residential accommodation.

This plan has been sitting with the Department of Planning for over two and a half years. The City of Sydney has been begging to have this plan finalised for over 18 months. Industry had all but given up.

The proposed heights have not changed from those proposed by the City of Sydney – in fact, they have used the very same map. The only thing that has changed since the City submitted its City of Sydney draft Central Sydney Planning Strategy the Department over 36 months ago, is that the Minister for Planning has removed the need for design excellence for these taller buildings, and taken a deliberate move to favour CBD office accommodation over CBD residential development.

The Urban Taskforce strongly asserts that quality building design and quality architecture are critical to the city’s development.

TOM FORREST is the CEO of Urban Taskforce

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