Greater Sydney continues to benefit from the historic policy of locating major trip-generating activities (such as retail, hospitality, offices, health and education, community and administrative services) in centres train stations.
The growth, innovation and evolution of centres will underpin the economy of the Central City District. Centres continue to be a key organising element of the urban structure of Greater Sydney and provide access to jobs, goods and services. Their vitality and viability are important to local economies and their character defines local areas. Well-planned centres help to stimulate economic activity and innovation through the co-location of activities, provide jobs closer to where people live and use infrastructure more efficiently.
This Plan builds on the existing strengths of each centre within a common framework to deliver on the wider productivity and liveability objectives to grow jobs across Greater Sydney and improve community access to goods and services.
To manage the growth and change of the Central City District’s centres, a centres hierarchy has been established as outlined below:
- Metropolitan centre: Greater Parramatta (refer to Planning Priority C1 )
- Strategic centres: Blacktown, Sydney Olympic Park, Norwest, Castle Hill, Rouse Hill, Mount Druitt, Marsden Park, Epping
- Local centres: (refer to Planning Priority C6).
All strategic centres will be the focus of public transport investments that seek to deliver the 30-minute city objective (refer to Planning Priority C9). Some strategic centres in the Central City District have major office precincts or health and education activities. They differ in size and scale of economic activity. However, as strategic centres, they all have similar expectations, including:
- high levels of private sector investment
- flexibility, so that the private sector can choose where and when to invest
- co-location of a wide mix of activities, including residential
- high levels of amenity, walkability and being cycle-friendly
- areas identified for commercial uses, and where appropriate, commercial cores.
Creating the conditions for growth and making centres great places is a focus of the Central City District Plan, as outlined in Action 18.
Employment growth is the principal underlying economic goal for metropolitan and strategic centres. Therefore the designation of a commercial core within a strategic centre for economic and employment uses, may be necessary to manage the impact of residential developments in crowding out commercial activity.
A balance must be struck in providing adequate mixed-use or residential zoned land around the commercial core zone to ensure new residential developments can benefit from access and services in centres.
Centres are not just for economic exchange. They are places where communities gather, and where recreational, cultural and educational pursuits are found. They are important to how people participate in community life.
Delivering housing within a walkable distance of strategic centres is an important outcome as it encourages non-vehicle trips, which foster healthier communities. Housing within centres contributes to a sense of vibrancy; however, the delivery of housing should not constrain commercial and retail activities.
Research has shown that the Central City District will need to accommodate more than 1.76 million square metres of additional retail floor space over the next 20 years15. In addition, there will be significant demand for additional office floor space. Creating the opportunities to attract retail and office development locally brings jobs closer to homes. This requires growth in either existing or new centres. The principles for developing new centres are outlined in this Planning Priority. The NSW Department of Planning and Environment will prepare a state-wide retail planning policy.
Rapid changes in technology and in retail trends, emerging night-time economies and population growth require councils to be agile and responsive in their planning for centres growth.
With economic growth a core goal for centres planning, job targets, expressed as a range, have been identified for each strategic centre. These targets seek to inform planning authorities and infrastructure agencies of the anticipated growth which needs to be planned for each centre. They should not be seen as maximum targets.
The lower end of the range of these job targets reflects the baseline of projected job growth that is anticipated in the centre, while the upper end is an aspirational higher growth scenario to reflect outcomes in the case of future investment and land use planning in centres.
The District also includes large retail centres such as Merrylands that are rapidly growing and provide a diverse range of activities, local services and jobs to a growing population catchment. In giving effect to the District Plan, councils must consider the role of these centres in providing housing and accommodating jobs growth.
Principles for Greater Sydney’s centres
As Greater Sydney’s population grows over the next 20 years, there will be a need to grow existing centres, particularly strategic centres and supermarket-based local centres, to create new centres including business parks, and attract health and education activities into centres. The principles for developing centres are:
- Existing centres: Expansion options will need to consider building heights and outward growth. In some cases, directly adjacent industrial land may be appropriate for centre expansions to accommodate businesses. Quality design and adequate infrastructure provision is critical to enable expansions. This approach needs to be informed by local government industrial strategies.
- New centres: These will be required across the whole of Greater Sydney.
- In land release areas, planning is to identify a range of centre types, including large and small local centres which could grow and evolve into new strategic centres and planning should maximise the number and capacity of centres on existing or planned mass transit corridors. To deliver this latter outcome, centres need to be identified early to allow their incorporation into transport infrastructure plans.
- In the Western Parkland City, where South Creek is to be planned as the central organising element for the city, opportunities for new centres to address South Creek are to be maximised.
- In established areas, innovative approaches to creating new centres are likely to be part of urban renewal and mixed-use developments.
- All new centres are to have good public transport commensurate with the scale of the centre.
- Business parks: Not all centres will start as retail centres. Creating jobs and providing services to local communities can be initiated within business parks. However, the built form of these business parks is critical – that is, they need to be developed from the outset as urban places which can transition into higher amenity and vibrant places while maintaining their main role as an employment precinct. Councils’ retail and employment strategies should provide guidance on the transition of business parks into mixed employment precincts including, where appropriate, ancillary residential developments to support the business park.
- New health and tertiary education facilities such as hospitals and community health centres: These should be located within or directly adjacent to centres, and ideally co-located with supporting transport infrastructure. In some cases, health and education facilities may be the anchor of a new centre. Built form is critical to facilitate the transition of centres with health and education uses into more mature innovation precincts. A mix of retail and other services including hotel-type accommodation adjacent to the precinct should be supported.
- Clusters of large format retail should be treated as part of the retail network, and planning for new clusters of large format retail should be done in the same way other new centres are planned. This includes ensuring centres are places that can grow and evolve over time, and have adequate access to transport services and quality public domains.
Increases in online ordering and home delivery means some retail is essentially a distribution centre. These ‘dark retail’ stores are most suited to industrial areas as they involve significant logistics support and do not require community access.
Where there is a prevalence of retail activities in an industrial area, there may be exceptional circumstances which warrant the development of a new centre. This should be informed by a net community benefit test supported by a strategic review of centres (which identifies the need for the centre) and an industrial land review (which identifies that the loss of industrial activity can be managed) for the local government area. These reviews to be prepared by councils, and endorsed by the Greater Sydney Commission.
In such cases, the centre should be:
- located where public transport services are commensurate with the scale of the centre
- directly opposite a residential catchment accessible by a controlled pedestrian crossing
- more than a standalone supermarket
- of quality urban design with amenity, informed by a masterplan
- supported by planned and funded infrastructure commensurate with the needs of the centre.
For new centres in industrial areas, the economic impact of the centre should be assessed for its effect on the operation of existing businesses in the locality and the viability of surrounding centres.
Planning for new and existing centres is to:
- be informed by council growth strategies which should consider the network of centres, retail, commercial and industrial supply; and demand and local housing strategies
- be potentially informed by district-based studies, facilitated by collaborations between councils
- consider the temporal nature of growth and change across Greater Sydney, both historic and future, and its influence on development opportunities at the local level
- recognise improvements to walkability as a core outcome for change in centres
- result in the development and implementation of land use and infrastructure plans to inform infrastructure investment and land use policy decisions
- respond to the detailed planning considerations of Strategy 12.1 and Strategy 22.1 in A Metropolis of Three Cities.