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BY JORDAN FERMANIS

The City of Sydney last week announced its most ambitious development of the CBD since the 1970s which has left some members of the community concerned with fears of overdevelopment.

The Central Sydney Planning strategy has revealed a development plan which will radically change the face of the city precinct. This latest development accelerates the ‘Manhattanisation’ of Sydney to levels unseen in recent memory.

The first key development is to increase the height limits of buildings in the CBD to in excess of 300 metres, 75 metres higher than the current height restrictions. This would mean that newly constructed buildings could be as tall as Sydney Tower (formally known as the Centrepoint Tower).

The second phase of the plan is to unlock 2.9 million square metres of floorspace in the CBD, a move which the City council says will provide up to 100,000 jobs. According to the City of Sydney, Between 1991 and 2012, Central Sydney’s employment population grew by close to 50 per cent and is expected to swell to 380 000 workers by 2036.

However the community has concerns that this increase in development could see Sydney living with the same density issues as cities like Hong Kong. Tony Rescei, President of Save Our Suburbs says that he has concerns that the Sydney CBD is becoming too congested.

“More and more high rise means more and more congestion.”

“Increasing the centralization means that Sydney is an increasingly undesirable place to live,” Mr Rescei told City Hub.

In a media statement the Lord Mayor said that the development was focused on the economic future of Sydney and failed to mention anything which reacted to community concerns of overdevelopment.

“Past planning strategies have successfully increased the number of residential buildings in the city centre, but now we need to protect and increase the amount of productive floor space to maintain Sydney’s economic vitality and resilience,” the Lord Mayor said.

City Councillor Linda Scott says that the Sydney Planning Strategy is “too little, too late” but that she supports the development decision.

“Whilst I welcome a call for developer contributions to be collected in Sydney’s CBD to support the provision of affordable housing, this is too little, too late from Lord Mayor Clover Moore.”

“Over 12 years, as the Lord Mayor has continued to reject the need for Council action to address housing affordability, the problem has reached crisis point in the City of Sydney,” Clr Scott said.

Dr Phillip Oldfield is a Senior Lecturer at UNSW Built Environment who points out that a development of this size must accompany a public transport system that can take the influx of people.

“You’re talking about increase in floorspace of 30% in the CBD. What you are going to have is hundreds of thousands of extra people on the public transport system at the same time.”

“For me, there is going to need to be an associate investment in public transport and other infrastructure to cater for that increased density,” Dr Oldfield said.

Senior Lecturer of Urban Studies at Western Sydney University Dr Dallas Rogers agrees, adding that the City should look to incorporate “transport-lead development” which matches increases in development with appropriate increases in public transport, a planning principle popular in many Asian cities.

“We should have increased density around transport nodes and it should flow out from those areas. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with density, density is a good thing for cities but we need to get the balance right,” Dr Rogers said.

With parts of the Barangaroo development opening this year and the announcement of more development in the CBD, it is more imperative than ever that Sydney’s crippling public transport system improves dramatically.

City Greens Councillor Lindsay Johnston says that The Central Planning Strategy proposal must work within existing legal guidelines and must ensure proper community consultation.

“Height restrictions and it is continually being exceeded and overriding the planning controls of the city and the Greens are opposed to that.”

“The planning controls are put in place, the community has that expectation and when local government and state government continually exceed these and breach the community’s expectations we think that is totally unacceptable,” Mr Johnston said.