Sydney Times

Sydney Business Chamber

Time to capitalise on Covid-driven planning reforms and finish the job

Written by City Reporter

Time to capitalise on Covid-driven planning reforms and finish the job

Sydney Business Chamber says while the Covid pandemic has sped up important planning reforms that should have been implemented years ago, we shouldn’t wait for the next crisis to drive more change and finish reforming Sydney’s archaic planning and land use system.

“Now is the time to make planning and land use fit for purpose. Cutting red tape, reducing assessment and development timelines, enabling better use of public space and allowing businesses to operate outside ‘normal’ hours are some of the reforms we can capitalise on in this period of real action,” said Katherine O’Regan, Executive Director of the Sydney Business Chamber.

“As outlined in our Planning Reform Paper, great progress has been made in recent months but there are many facets of planning that still need updating and streamlining to maintain the reform momentum. It’s time to move to a more flexible, performance based, planning system focused on the key outcomes like urban design, amenity and public benefit.”

“While our population has surged, become more diverse and shifted in lifestyle expectations, much of the planning and land use framework has remained rooted in the past.”

“For the quickest and best results we must implement a more flexible planning regime in the main town centres across the Sydney metropolitan area as these are the precincts where most of the economic, cultural, and social life of the city happens and where reform can deliver the greater social and economic returns.”

“Much of the problem with our planning system stems from its focus on ‘inputs’ – zoning, height limits, floor space ratios etc, and less on outputs. It doesn’t ensure development is well designed or the right type in the right place. A realignment of land use and controls from a heavily regulated ‘red tape’ focus on inputs, to an outcomes-based, performance system will drive good development and better land use.”

“Sydney’s CBD sets a great example by having more liberal zoning controls and generous height and density allowances while not leading to a developer free for all. Freeing up planners, experts and developers from punitive input controls allows them to focus on the things that really matter – the outputs.”

“To fund reforms and build the Sydney we need, the way property is taxed must also change. During a development boom, Government and Councils’ revenues bloom, but when the boom busts, as we are experiencing now, the balance sheet is strained.”

“So when government investment is needed most, it is least able to fund it. A broad-based land tax would provide the best solution.”

“Additionally, Council rates have been capped for 50 years and NSW residents pay considerably less than other states. But Sydney’s Councils need funds to build the local infrastructure we are now using more than ever as the Covid crisis drives localisation of work and play.”

“Capping rates often means areas experiencing the most population and economic growth have the least capacity to provide supporting infrastructure and services – having a poor local council is not in anyone’s best interest.”


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