Urban Ideas


Planning for Sydney’s future apartments. 



Sydneys Metropolitan Plan has a target of 770,000 new housing units by 2036. That is 30,000 new houses or apartments a year. While many of these will be in detached houses on Sydneys fringe the majority, on the basis of past performance, will be in infill areas within the existing metropolitan boundary.



In recent years, the infill target has been 70% of the total which would mean 539,000 new infill housing units would need to be accommodated. We have rounded this down to 500,000 and asked a distinguished panel of architects and urban designers how these could be accommodated in metropolitan Sydney, if they were primarily in apartment buildings. We asked them then to develop solutions that proposed an urban form and building typologies and to indicate which sites would be most appropriate.

To ensure that buildings were generally not in a tower form (although these work well in many locations) we set a height limit of 25 metres. This is the height that triggers extra costs for fire sprinklers and it is a good height to relate to the tree canopy of Sydneys eucalypts. The design proposals are for various heights under the 25 metres and for various locations, including around transport nodes, along corridors and in urban centres. Added to this task of planning the infill sites, is the task of locating 270,000 new detached houses on greenfield sites, on the edge of the city.

Clearly some of the greenfield sites will have higher density buildings like townhouses, as will the infill sites but our belief is that apartments are going to continue to be an important part of the solution to Sydneys growing pains. It is also clear that a growing number of people are choosing this housing type.

Our thesis is that Sydney is at a tipping point, where the urban form is evolving from a suburban model to a more urban model and that we need to manage this transition with confidence.

The New South Wales government is undertaking a review of State Environmental Planning Policy 65 on the design of residential flat buildings, so it is timely to look at this building type. We need to refocus the legislation onto the supply of well designed residential flats so that they are encouraged by planning policy. The SEPP was begun 12 years ago to improve the design quality of residential flats and this has been very successful, particularly through the requirement to use registered architects. What is now needed is a planning policy that drives the development of up to 10,000 well designed apartment buildings, in appropriate locations in metropolitan Sydney, over the next 25 to 30 years.

The Urban Taskforce supports the growth of Sydney as outlined in the Metropolitan Strategy. In fact, we believe that the growth could be higher than the governments predictions, if immigration levels are maintained. We also understand that the community has concerns about the change of character that will flow from a move to a more urban environment. But somehow the extra 770,000 new housing units will need to go somewhere so we are demonstrating one approach towards this.

The Urban Taskforce is keen to have responses to the proposals suggested in this issue of URBAN IDEAS and we welcome all comments to admin@urbantaskforce.com.au.

This is the first issue of URBAN IDEAS. We intend to produce further issues on important planning and development issues to generate debate in the public interest.

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