Sydney’s Urban Planning Overhaul

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Friday, September 18th, 2015
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The NSW state government hopes to bring down housing prices in Sydney via the establishment of a new urban planning authority.

The establishment of the Greater Sydney Commission will see the city divided into a total of six districts overseen by a total of thirteen appointees.

Local councils will nominate a commissioner for each of the six districts, with a further three commissioners responsible for environment, economic and social portfolios.

The NSW government hopes that the creation of the Great Sydney Commission will help to clarify urban planning policy amidst the motley welter of the city’s local government divisions, and thus facilitate development that will serve to bring down bloated property prices.

“For too long decisions about Sydney’s future have been made in an ad hoc way by 41 different local councils and all sorts of different organisations within the State Government,” said Planning Minister Rob Stokes.

“This will ensure planning decisions are made more efficiently, creating more opportunities for the efficient use of land which will obviously put downward pressure on housing prices.”

The commission will also foster inter-departmental cooperation and coordination with the heads of Transport for NSW, Treasury and the Department of Planning and Environment all serving as board members.

As part of efforts to unify city-wide urban planning in Sydney a number of other bodies will also be incorporated into the Greater Sydney Commission, including the Joint Regional Planning Panels, as well as Sub-Regional Plans, which will be converted into District Plans, and the Infrastructure Delivery Committee.

While experts and members of industry have hailed the establishment of the Commission as a step in the right direction for urban planning and development in Sydney, some have raised concerns about potential shortcomings or oversights.

Stephen Albin, chief executive of the Urban Institute of Australia, notes that members of the property development sector are at present absent from the commission – a glaring omission given that they are responsible for the creation of over 95 per cent of housing in NSW.

Peter Phibbs, chair of urban and regional planning policy at the University of Sydney, notes that it is unlikely that the Commission will succeed in its stated objective of improving home affordability, given that dwelling approvals have already reached record highs.

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