Australia: The new metropolitan strategy - A Plan for Growing Sydney


A Plan for Growing Sydney (Plan) provides for:

  • Western Sydney, especially Greater Parramatta, which is to be transformed into a second CBD;
  • an expanded CBD, both through enhancing its connections to North Sydney and through revitalisation of the waterfront;
  • the Global Economic Corridor, which shall be further extended to reach Sydney Olympic Park, Parramatta and Norwest;
  • potential transport initiatives including the extension of both the North and South West Rail Links, the Western Sydney Rail Upgrade, the Outer Sydney Orbital, the WestConnex and NorthConnex Motorways, the Western Harbour Tunnel, the Beaches Link and the Western Sydney Freight Line;
  • urban renewal and housing, particularly along transport corridors, such as the North West Rail Link corridor, the Parramatta Road corridor, the Anzac Parade corridor and the Bankstown to Sydenham corridor, and within the Priority Precincts;
  • establishment of the Greater Sydney Commission (Commission) responsible for implementing the Plan;
  • revised planning directives, expected to be published soon to guide Local Environmental Plans.


On 14 December 2014, the NSW Minister for Planning released A Plan for Growing Sydney. The Plan is intended to guide land use planning decisions for the next 20 years and presents a strategy for accommodating Sydney's predicted population growth over this time. Whilst the Plan supersedes the Metropolitan Plan for Sydney to 2036 (Former Plan), it generally maintains and builds on the Former Plan's policies and objectives, including the:

  1. expansion and enhancement of Western Sydney;
  2. provision of increased housing numbers and densities near transport and employment areas; and
  3. provision of greater connectivity throughout Sydney and with other Australian centres.

The new Plan is, however, more specific in its objectives and in setting targeted locations for implementation of those objectives, compared to previous metropolitan strategies. In addition, the Plan provides for the creation of a new, independent body, the Greater Sydney Commission, to oversee implementation.

To achieve the Government's vision for Sydney as "a strong global City, a great place to live", the Plan sets out four main goals, for Sydney to be:

  • a competitive economy with world-class services and transport;
  • a City of housing choice with homes that meet our needs and lifestyles;
  • a great place to live with strong, healthy and well connected communities; and
  • a sustainable and resilient City that protects the natural environment and has a balanced approach to the use of land and resources.

Each of the 4 goals is broken into a number of directions, with each direction specifying a number of actions for implementation.

The Plan largely focuses on the first goal, particularly investment in various 'Strategic Centres' and 'Priority Growth Areas' – especially Western Sydney – as well as transport corridors across the City. The secondary focus of the Plan is the creation and revitalisation of varied housing opportunities throughout Sydney, while ensuring sustainability and the preservation of green spaces. As a result, the Plan contains both location-specific and more general goals for Sydney's development over the next 20 years.


The role of the Greater Sydney Commission

Responsibility for implementation of the Plan will fall to the Commission. The Commission has yet to be created, with enabling legislation due to be finalised in mid-2015. A Ministerial Advisory Council has been established to work with key stakeholders to begin implementation of the Plan prior to the establishment of the Commission.

Whilst the powers, budget and role of the Commission not yet clear, it will be responsible for coordinating and driving delivery of all the actions outlined in the Plan. The Commission will work in partnership with local councils, the community and other stakeholders to assist in identifying strategic locations for housing, employment, associated services and green space. The Commission will also drive consolidation of local government areas into six subregions.

As an independent body, the Commission's Board will comprise both State agency and local government representatives. The Commission will sit within the NSW Planning and Environment cluster and the Chair of the Board will report directly to the Minister for Planning.

A new planning directive and a new hierarchy of plans

The NSW Government proposes to issue a new planning directive to councils to ensure that planning proposals and local planning controls are consistent with the Plan. In addition, the Government intends to create more detailed priorities for each subregion through subregional planning. At the local level, the Plan's actions will be implemented via existing Local Environmental Plans and new Community Strategic Plans prepared by local councils and monitored by the Commission.

Coordination with existing plans

The Plan is intended to work in conjunction with the NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan, a framework for transport planning in NSW over the next 20 years, and the Rebuilding NSW – State Infrastructure Strategy NSW, which details an investment of $20 billion into productive infrastructure designed to boost the economy.

Progress updates

The Plan requires Annual Update Reports on its progress to be presented to Parliament, with a more detailed Outcomes Report to be provided every three years. A comprehensive review of the Plan is required to be undertaken every five years.


Greenfield growth, urban consolidation and renewal

A housing target of 664,000 new dwellings by 2031 is proposed, via a mix of both greenfield growth and urban renewal. Greenfield growth will be particularly focused in the North and South West 'Growth Centres'.

Urban renewal locations are identified under the State Environmental Planning Policy (Urban Renewal) 2010 or are selected through the 'Priority Precincts' program (formerly known as "Urban Activation Precincts"). Urban renewal is planned along the North West Rail Link corridor, the Parramatta Road corridor, the Anzac Parade corridor and the Bankstown to Sydenham corridor. Several other locations will be investigated for potential urban renewal, including Sutherland to Sydenham, East Hills to Sydenham, Hornsby to Strathfield via Epping, Hornsby to North Sydney via Gordon and Kings Cross to Bondi Junction.

Urban consolidation is intended to be achieved via strategic increases in building heights and lifting restrictions on subdivision in certain areas.

Transport initiatives

Potential transport initiatives include the extension of the South West Rail Link, the extension of the North West Rail Link to Bankstown, the Western Sydney Rail Upgrade, Parramatta Light Rail, the Outer Sydney Orbital, the WestConnex Motorway, the Western Harbour Tunnel, the Beaches Link, the NorthConnex Motorway and the Western Sydney Freight Line.

Establishment of a "Green Grid"

Protection of the natural environment and biodiversity is prioritised under the Plan. This is to be achieved via the creation of a 'Green Grid': a network of interlinked, multi-purpose open spaces, parks, conservation areas and green corridors.

Investment in arts, culture, entertainment and heritage

Both the CBD and Greater Parramatta are identified as targets for greater investment in arts, culture, entertainment and heritage with the objective of enhancing Sydney's competitiveness as an international tourist destination.


In addition to its general goals, the Plan identifies a number of areas and corridors for particular attention, most importantly the CBD, Greater Parramatta, the 'Global Economic Corridor' and Sydney's Gateways. Infrastructure and housing investment is also planned for approximately 30 'Strategic Centres'. 'Knowledge Hubs', clusters of particular industries, will be encouraged, including creative digital technology in Ultimo/Pyrmont, financial services in the CBD, medical technology in Macquarie Park and transport and logistics in Redfern.

Greater Parramatta

In line with its focus on Western Sydney, the Plan proposes the transformation of Greater Parramatta into a second CBD, with investment in hospitals, schools and infrastructure, particularly light rail services. Greater Parramatta will be extended to the Olympic Peninsula.

Gateways and the Global Economic Corridor

There is a commitment to increasing links to and capacity at Sydney's gateways – Port Botany, Sydney Airport and Badgerys Creek Airport. These gateways will form part of the extended Global Economic Corridor that stretches from Port Botany and Sydney Airport through the CBD and Macquarie Park towards Parramatta, Norwest and Sydney Olympic Park.


The CBD is to be extended via a corridor to Eveleigh and a cultural ribbon along Barangaroo, Darling Harbour, Walsh Bay and the Bays Precinct. Additional connections between the CBD and North Sydney are proposed, with plans for a second Harbour rail crossing. Finally, a revitalisation of the waterfront is planned, as well as investment in ferry services and water quality.

Outer Sydney and Regional NSW

The Plan contemplates better transport links with regional NSW. The Regional City Centres of Penrith, Liverpool and Campbeltown-Macarthur will receive greater investment. The agricultural and resources areas on the City's fringes will be protected.


Whilst the Plan is extensive (at 146 pages) and provides a more detailed blueprint for Sydney than previous plans, many details regarding implementation, particularly the role and powers of the Commission, have yet to be clarified.

The Plan is essential reading for those with interests in real estate and infrastructure development in New South Wales.

The Plan can be found online here.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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