Item 10.2 - Attachment 1

Draft Commentary on Metropolitan Strategy Review


Attachment 1


Draft Commentary on Metropolitan Strategy Review



The NSW Government released the Metropolitan Strategy Review discussion paper on 17 March 2010.  The discussion paper is described as the “first step in a comprehensive review of the Metropolitan Strategy”.  In summary the review identifies:

§ A population forecast to reach 6 million by 2036 - an increase of 1.7 million since 2006.  

§ A need for 770,000 additional homes by 2036.

§ A need to expand Sydney’s employment capacity by 760,000 to 2.89 million jobs by 2036.

The discussion paper poses a series of questions relating to the various themes by which the paper is divided. 

Given the limited time for response and the need to have the matter ratified by Council, not all questions in the discussion paper have been addressed.  



1.         Planning for a growing population


The discussion paper raises a question about whether Sydney should continue to accommodate the majority of population growth in NSW.  


Many regional centres are struggling to maintain and increase jobs and population.  The notion of accommodating a significant proportion of NSW’ growth in regional centres is supported, however, there needs to be the complimentary infrastructure and jobs to enable this.  Coastal NSW appears to be similarly grasping with growth pressures and many inland regional centres appear to be dealing with the opposite problem.  Investment in regional NSW and the exploration of incentives for business and employment in regional centres may be worth exploring.  Accommodating particularly immigrant growth in regional NSW is worthy of discussion, however, it is noted that there has been public debate over this issue for some years and practical implementation appears to be a major stumbling block.


On a more local level, greater access to local jobs and services in peripheral areas of Sydney like the Central and South Coast as well as the Blue Mountains, will represent reduced strain on Sydney’s infrastructure.  A true network city with maximised transport infrastructure is the key to realising the Metropolitan Strategy’s objective of creating a “City of Cities”. This is further discussed in “3 Integrating land Use with Transport” below.






The NSW Government explore further incentives and investment opportunities in infrastructure and employment as a means of attracting growth in regional NSW.



2.         Making Sydney climate change ready

As discussed in 3 below, a compact city with locally accessible jobs, entertainment, services and housing is the ideal way to minimise pollution, fuel and energy use.  The underlying methodology of concentrating growth around areas well serviced by public transport, services and other amenities, is on the whole, being responsibly implemented by local government.  The reciprocal provision and increased capacity of pubic transport, is not, however, being provided by the NSW government.  Access to reliable, clean, affordable public transport is in particular, a key component to achieving this end.


The provision of new areas of open space within established areas, is challenging.  This stems from the pattern of subdivision and the new contributions framework, which makes land acquisition very difficult.  The Open Space acquisition fund that the Department of Planning administers, should be more transparent in its prioritisation methodology.  Local government does not seem to have a voice in putting potential acquisition forward for consideration.



That the NSW Government make its open space acquisition programme more transparent in its prioritisation methodology and offer opportunities for local government to put forward potential sites for acquisition.



3.         Integrating land use with Transport

Increasing densities around transport hubs in order to minimise car trips, increase access to transport and jobs, services and recreation and maximise the vitality of centres, is supported.


Whilst this is supported, the confidence in the NSW government to deliver important infrastructure is diminishing.  In Parramatta, this stems from the Epping to Parramatta rail link not being delivered, ferry services not being appropriately supported the CBD loop not being and more recently, the west metro being taken off the agenda in the short term.


A network city rather than a radial city 

There is strong support for the network transport approach of the rail system.  This is different to Sydney’s traditional radial system, which is very much still in evidence today.  That is, the system is very much Sydney CBD centric.  This approach undermines the potential role of centres like Parramatta, Penrith, Liverpool, Bankstown and others.  There continues to be a bias towards the Sydney centric radial model notwithstanding the rhetoric of the discussion paper. For example, the Hills draft Integrated Transport Plan clearly identifies that over 60% of residents of the Hills Shire travel to the Sydney CBD by train and/or bus.  This compares with les than 10% that make this trip to Parramatta using these modes of transport.


For reasons of long term sustainability, Sydney should be exploiting its centres as nodes of employment, entertainment and accommodation.  The long term planning for Sydney’s growth must be underpinned by integrated transport planning that maximises the centres approach.  This level of planning supported by infrastructure is lacking at present.


Support for transport infrastructure

Commitments were previously made to provide for the Epping to Parramatta rail link (formerly the Chatswood to Parramatta rail link) as well as the West Metro projects.  Both these projects were important for the accessibility of Parramatta.  They are now committed for the long term, but there is little confidence that they will come to fruition in the foreseeable future.


In addition, as discussed above, to strive towards a network city, Parramatta as the second CBD of Sydney, needs to be better connected to the west and north west, where a large proportion of the City’s workers and visitors originate.  To facilitate this, rather than the mooted north-west rail project linking the north west sector to the Sydney CBD, it should be directed via Parramatta. 


Loop Bus

Parramatta City Council’s Loop bus has been enthusiastically embraced by workers and visitors to the city.  It accommodates about 4,000 passengers per day and has registered its millionth passenger earlier this year.  This transport initiative, which is traditionally a State Government responsibility, has not been supported by the State despite ongoing requests for support form Council.  The State Government has financially supported a similar service in Wollongong and has actually funded an expansion recently.  Parramatta Council has identified a gap, provided for it notwithstanding that transport is a NSW Government responsibility and has not been supported by Government.      


Parking Policy

There should be a consistent approach to parking as a demand management tool with consistent guidelines for the provision in different urban contexts.  This is important as parking is used as an incentive and tool for the marketing of new development.  In Parramatta for example, Council has been responsible is applying a ceiling to the parking rates applicable.  Council recognises that this is an important mechanism in the total transport planning picture for Sydney.  However, in a competitive investment market, investors may be attracted to the many locations throughout Sydney that have generous parking controls and enable new development to provide many more parking spaces than in Parramatta.  This erodes both Parramatta’s competitive edge as well as undermining Sydney’s transport planning objectives.


A consistent approach across the Sydney region is required in order that local government can be confident that similar rules are being applied and that there is a level playing field in a competitive office market.


It is noted that Parramatta City Council will be making a separate submission in response to the Metropolitan Transport Plan.



§ That the NSW Government commit to the construction of the Parramatta - Epping Rail link and the Western Metro to Westmead within a more reasonable timeframe. This recognises Parramatta as the gateway to Western Sydney and reinforces the network city approach to transport planning hat the Metropolitan Strategy promotes.


§ That the North West Rail link include a connection to Parramatta from Castle Hill in order to reinforce the network approach of the Metropolitan Plan and underline the “City of Cities” approach of this Plan.


§ That the Metropolitan Strategy include a policy position on parking that underpins the transport planning for the city.  This should include a direction on parking provision for different contexts within the metropolitan area, but specifically for employment centres that have access to public transport to ensure that places like Parramatta are not disadvantaged in the market. 


§ That the NSW Government provide financial support for the Parramatta Loop service.



4.         More jobs in the Sydney region

The jobs targets of the Metropolitan Plan continue to be ambitious.  Clearly population growth needs to be sustained by employment.


The City of Cities approach appears to break down with the confluence of the global arc and its associated mix of higher order jobs and the market for manufacturing/warehouse and other lower order employment in western Sydney.


It is difficult to see how the demographic and social-economic mix that will be required for the City of Cities approach will work with this obvious geographic dichotomy of types of jobs.  The risk is that either people will continue to have to travel long distances to their jobs, which is contrary to the Metropolitan Plan vision, or the socio economic divide between different parts of Sydney will continue and be reinforced.



That the NSW Government consider the socio economic impact on the City of Cities approach and objectives of the growth of Sydney, given the geographic split between higher order jobs of the global arc and the lower order jobs of western Sydney. 



5.         Growing Sydney’s value

Not addressed.



6.         Strengthening a City of Cities

As discussed in 3 above, the Metropolitan Plan needs to be underpinned by strong transport links to create a greater level of accessibility and equity throughout the city.  Without these investments, the City will continue to suffer greater levels of traffic congestion, delays, pollution and increasing levels of social isolation and disadvantage. 


In recent times, there has rightly been a focus on increasing efficiency and timelines in the development assessment process.  However, the focus on consistent good urban design outcomes has tended to be secondary to fast processing times for development applications which has been the focus under the State Government’s planning reforms.  The Land and Environment Court process, tends also not to be heavily influenced by the need to achieve excellent design outcomes.


In terms of unlocking the potential of centres, this paper provides some commentary under “9. Achieving Renewal”. 



7.         Meeting changing housing needs

The “NSW Household and Dwelling Projections, 2006-2036” release identifies that average household size is projected to decline from 2.61 to 2.49 in Sydney.  This will mean that fewer people are occupying dwellings and more dwellings will need to be constructed just to maintain the current population.  This is a trend that has occurred for some time.  This is also reinforced by the projected increase by 69% (to 637,500) of lone person households 


Even though the “couple family with children” category will represent significant growth (an additional 127,000 household by 2031) as well as a slight increase in occupancy rate, the projected average occupancy rate for this type of household is still under 4 persons.  Then total average occupancy rate for family households will be only 3.03 persons per household by 2031.


These figures are contradicted by Sydney’s average dwelling sizes for new dwellings.  Including all households (including apartments), these are reported to be 205 m2.  For new stand alone dwellings, the figure is 263m2.  It is reported that 20 years ago, 1 in 6 new houses had 4 or more bedrooms.  By 2006, this figure was one in 3.5.


Clearly, the sustainable growth of Sydney with its relatively low population density will rely not only on “responding to changing housing needs” but also encouraging more sustainable responses to growth.  Higher densities that are well managed, designed and integrated with public investment in transport and other infrastructure will be critical for managing Sydney’s growth.  Allowing the average new Sydney home to continue to be unsustainably large erodes the various other objectives of the Metropolitan Strategy.


The question of affordability continues to be a major problem in Sydney.  It is acknowledged that this is an immensely complex issue in Sydney and a variety of factors contribute to the problem.  Housing affordability is a component of the widening gap between social economic clusters in the Sydney region.  A radical approach to this issue is required.  It is doubtful that, as the development industry claims, this is simply a question of supply.



§  That the NSW Government initiate a public discussion involving the community, business groups and local government regarding dwelling sizes in Sydney with a view to identifying whether the market can sustain smaller, more compact dwellings given the challenges facing the growth of Sydney.


§  That the Metropolitan Strategy explore a radical, holistic and consultative approach to address the issue of housing affordability.  



8.         Balancing land uses on the city fringe

This has not been addressed in the submission.


9.         Achieving renewal

There are several significant blockages to achieving urban renewal.  The consolidation of sites, especially in and around centres, where they tend to be fragmented, is an expensive and complex exercise.  Incentives have been used by local government as means to achieve this but have had patchy success.  Parramatta City Council’s own efforts in the Civic Place precinct development has faced this problem.  A means of achieving a better capacity to consolidate sites to achieve town centre renewal aspirations should be addressed the Metropolitan Strategy.  


Another significant issue that hampers renewal is the constraints around strata subdivided buildings.  This is not a new issue and has hampered the rejuvenation of many areas.  This will become an increasingly problematic issue as the residential flat buildings of the 1960’s and 1970’s age, deteriorate and erode from the character of areas.  




§  That the strategy address ways of increasing the capacity to consolidate fragmented allotments, especially in areas that are identified for regeneration/renewal.


§  That the strategy address the constraints posed by strata subdivided buildings as a blockage to regeneration/renewal. 



10.       Implement a revised Metropolitan Strategy


Dwelling Targets

The discussion paper includes a revised upward population estimate by sub region.  The West Central sub region includes a 31.9% growth between 2008 to 2036.  It is not clear how this population is distributed and whether this would necessitate a revision of dwelling targets or LEP zonings and controls.  This will be a major implication for local government which will require clear communication from the NSW government.



Clarification is sought from the NSW Government on if, how and when new dwelling targets will be required to be met by local government.


Other Issues


Whole of Government, Funded Approach

A plan for managing Sydney’s growth is strongly supported.  It would be beneficial for the objectives of the plan and the confidence that local government can glean from the process, if there is a commitment that the Metropolitan Strategy is a government wide commitment that all government departments and agencies align with and are committed to in the planning for Sydney.  In addition, commitment should be sought that the plan is funded in its commitments to public transport, open space provision and other infrastructure to support the growth of Sydney. In the past, whilst it has been beneficial to have an overall plan for the management of growth in Sydney, it has been see as being driven from the bottom up with regard to the provision of sufficient zoned land to enable housing and hobs growth population without the requisite Government infrastructure support.




Commitment is sought from the NSW Government that the final Metropolitan Strategy represents a whole of government approach that individual agencies will sign up to.  In addition, that infrastructure provision including transport, is explicitly described and funded in the Plan.


Social Issues

The discussion paper is almost silent on social support, social isolation, community development, socio-economic stagnation and widening divisions between different parts of Sydney.



That the Metropolitan Strategy include more detailed provisions and strategies to address social issues facing Sydney as it accommodates growth including community capacity building, social isolation, socio economic stagnation, disadvantage and support.