Ban on residential development near train stations will congest Sydney

03 April 2009

Planning rules are stopping residential development near train stations and making Sydneys transport problems even worse, according to a report released today.

The report, Liveable Centres, was commissioned by the Urban Taskforce and authored by leading urban design firm, Roberts Day. The Urban Taskforces chief executive, Aaron Gadiel, said recent zoning plans prevent new homes being built in the areas that need it most.


The development land around train stations and other high quality public transport is crucial to future housing growth, Mr Gadiel said.


These areas are now supposed to accommodate the bulk of Sydneys future housing, office space, retail space and entertainment needs.


For these plans to work, housing, workplaces, shopping and recreation areas will all need to be located together – within walking distance of public transport.


Since 2007 NSW local councils, with the approval of the Department of Planning, have released 13 new zoning plans in-line with the governments new standardised format.


This report shows that five of the plans contain outright prohibitions on residential development near train stations.


New residential development will be banned in the heart of key urban centres with good public transport, such as St Leonards, Macquarie Park, Liverpool, Parramatta and North Strathfield.


But this is only the start – every zoning plan in the state will be re-written in the coming years.


If this is what we can expect, Sydney will fail to meet its housing challenge.


Six plans restrict residential development in key centres by giving more generous floor space allocations for commercial and retail development.


In locations such as Burwood, Riverstone, Wollongong and Newcastle, residential development is nominally allowed, but new rules discriminate against proposals for new homes within walking distance of public transport.


In these areas commercial and retail developments are allowed to be bigger than residential development, even though the visual impact of the different building types can be identical.


The reports author, Stephen Moore, is a well credentialed expert in urban design and town planning. Mr Moore said there was an endemic bias against residential development in the heart of centres.


If this trend continues NSW will be denied the benefit of many genuine mixed-use centres, he said.


We all want liveable communities in NSW. Good urban design should be the foundation of our future neighbourhoods.


Mixing uses around public transport is the most effective way to reduce unnecessary traffic congestion.


Reducing car dependence also boosts household disposable income. The average yearly cost of car ownership is the equivalent of servicing a $90,000 mortgage debt.


Mr Moore said regulation should be concerned with physical form of buildings, rather than the use of a building.


Physical form is a places most intrinsic and enduring characteristic, he said.


The focus should be given to the adaptability of buildings rather than their immediate use.


Mr Gadiel said that there would be no recovery in the Australian economy unless there is a recovery in new home development.


Any prohibition on residential development near train stations and other public transport will only delay the economic recovery in NSW.


The Urban Taskforce is a property development industry group, representing Australias most prominent property developers and equity financiers.


For every $1 million in construction expenditure, 27 jobs are created throughout the broader economy. The construction activity made possible by property developers contributes $69 billion to the national economy each year and creates 709,000 direct jobs. The construction industry is Australias third largest source of employment.


The Liveable Centres report can be downloaded here.



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