Going up? – Central Sydney Planning Strategy receives in-principle support from the NSW Government

On 8 December 2019, the NSW Minister for Planning and Public Spaces announced the Government's in-principle support of the 2016 Central Sydney Planning Strategy (the Strategy) subject to three key amendments. The long-awaited Strategy seeks to increase employment floor space in central Sydney while maintaining and enhancing public places and parks, accessibility through the city, and design excellence of new buildings.


The three amendments proposed by the NSW Government (and agreed by the City of Sydney Council in principle) are to:

  • allow for up to 50% more floor space for development in the four tower cluster areas (near Barangaroo, Circular Quay, Central and Town Hall) that demonstrate design excellence;
  • encourage more office space in the CBD by removing the residential accommodation bonus instead of implementing a proposed 50% cap on residential accommodation; and
  • prepare a new development contributions plan to help fund the delivery of new public infrastructure to ensure the city retains its valued public and green spaces.
While the Strategy identifies four areas for tower clusters, the specific height of these towers is not proposed to be delivered by changes to the height controls in the Sydney Local Environmental Plan 2012. Rather, site specific planning proposals are guided by the Council's Guideline for Site Specific Planning Proposals in Central Sydney, which contemplates buildings up to 320 metres high on appropriate sites, being sites that will not create additional overshadowing on protected spaces, and that can maintain aircraft safety. The approach of individually negotiated site specific planning proposals for these likely contentious developments will provide the Council with greater control over the shape of the evolving skyline.

Some of the other key actions of the draft plan include:

  • expanding "Central Sydney" to include the Rocks, Darling Harbour, and areas around Ultimo, the University of Technology Sydney and Central;
  • increasing the maximum height of buildings between Sussex Street and Kent Street from 80m to 110m under the LEP;
  • increasing the minimum lot size of tower sites to 1000 sqm;
  • requiring office developments to achieve a minimum 5-star National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) rating;
  • requiring growth sites to drive zero-net energy precinct outcomes;
  • providing resources and expertise to support design excellence processes;
  • ensuring access through more open space and east-west connections;
  • extending design excellence requirements to the expanded precincts of Central Sydney; and
  • monitoring the way in which the plan delivers on employment floor space with a view of regularly reviewing and adjusting planning controls.
The City of Sydney Council is preparing to exhibit an amended draft Strategy and planning proposal early in 2020. You can register to be notified when the plan goes on exhibition here.

McCabe Curwood is experienced in advising its clients in relation to planning proposals. We also regularly advise clients on policy developments and can help you formulate submissions to State and Local Government. Get in contact today.



Katharine Huxley Associate