Item 8.9 - Attachment 1

Detailed Report






In December 2007, the Parramatta City Centre LEP was gazetted and came into effect.  Since that time, the level of development envisaged under the State Governments cities taskforce project and identified in the Metropolitan Plan is yet to be realised. Since the commencement of the City Centre LEP, various representations and observations have been made by land owners, developers and Council officers on various aspects of the City Centre LEP & DCP.


Council will be required to amalgamate the City Centre LEP & DCP with the recently gazetted comprehensive LEP which applies to the remainder of the Parramatta LGA.


In progressing with the amalgamation work, it was considered opportune and sound practice, to also carry out a focussed review of elements of the City Centre planning controls in order to be satisfied that the planning controls are able to facilitate delivery of the identified vision for Parramatta and Sydney.


In general terms the identified vision for Parramatta is to strengthen its role as a regional city and provide a competitive office & retail market to thrive as a genuine CBD. It is also to be a home for new jobs and residents which contains tall, distinctive & energy efficient buildings and at the same time maintain and  provide a broad range of cultural, medical, educational, tourist and recreational facilities that make Parramatta a good place to work, live and enjoy.


Review work


The overarching aim of the ‘review’ component of this project is to ensure that the development controls are not unreasonably or unnecessarily restricting and holding back development in the City Centre. At the same time the controls need to provide for a consistent assessment framework and process with the required strength and level of rigour to ensure good overall design and development outcomes. However, it is not intended to re-examine nor re-write all elements of the LEP & DCP as Council does not want to unnecessarily extend the process as this could potentially result in a further slowing of development.


Whilst integrity and consistency of the application of planning controls is obviously of importance from both an overall equity and design point of view, Council needs to be satisfied that the current framework of planning controls are not preventing Parramatta from realising the vision identified for it in terms of the level of development required to provide for the jobs and dwelling targets contained in the Metropolitan Plan. 


An urban design and architecture firm (GMU – Gabrielle Morrish Urban Design & Architecture) were engaged to carry out some modelling and analysis work to supplement and expand upon some internal modelling already completed. In conjunction with the modelling work an economic analysis (Hill PDA as sub-consultant), of both the broader market trends, and selected site development viability was carried out as part of this review work.


In selecting the blocks to be modelled, it was attempted to analyse a representative cross section of the city in terms of variety of controls/issues (i.e. different zonings, heights, floor space, setbacks etc) whilst examining sites with a reasonable prospect of re-development. The modelling applied the relevant controls (to each site) and presented each with both the application of FSR and Height as the primary controls (as well as all DCP setback controls). The modelling also had consideration for the block and context in which each site sat so as to, as far as possible, represent a realistic development form, without undertaking a full architectural design of each site which would obviously be cost prohibitive.


An initial financial feasibility was then run on the tested sites to determine if the site, as modelled, represented commercially viable development in the current market.


The next phase of this work involved GMU exploring several of the modelled sites with a view to modifying some control elements in order to try and present some ‘solutions’ which have helped inform the recommendations to modify some elements of the LEP & DCP. The suggested solutions were then further examined by Hill PDA to see whether the amended modelling improves the potential financial viability (and likelihood) of development.


It is recognised that the modelling work carried out is not a comprehensive architectural design exercise and assumptions had to be made for the purposes of the exercise with the aim being to clarify and substantiate the issues & contentions raised. Equally, the financial analysis makes assumptions and allowances and is not intended to represent a full quantity surveyor’s estimate of each site.


Planning controls have never historically carried a mandate of ensuring a specific quantum of economic profitability for owners/developers. However, the economic analyses component was considered necessary in this context due to the strategic importance of Parramatta CBD (as identified in the Metropolitan Strategy) as well as responding to the contentions made by various land owners over time. 


This modelling work has served to quantify, to a degree the variety and extent of issues with the City Centre controls. It is not intended to form the sole basis for the suggested amendments.




The key findings which form part of the basis for recommended amendments were;


·    that in almost all sites modelled the maximum FSR allowance was used up well before the maximum identified height was reached,


·    the identified minimum podium heights were quite variable and did not necessarily achieve intended aims (as stated in the DCP) and in some cases also potentially adversely influence the form of the City (generally more squat block development rather than slender, taller tower elements),


·    above podium level, the application of the side and rear setback controls reduced the potential to create floor plates that were of optimal sizes for intended purposes  (both residential and commercial),


·    there were relatively few realistic opportunities to develop sites greater than 2500sqm (the site area required to achieve the maximum identified FSR),


·    the majority of modelled development sites did not represent viable (financially) development,


·    other observations included that the City is somewhat fragmented and relatively constrained in terms of the number of development opportunities when considering factors such as heritage, lot sizes, lot configuration, existing capitalisation on site and strata ownership patterns,


·    the DCP could be improved to better provide guidance for development containing, or immediately adjacent to heritage items,


·    the testing of the suggested ‘solutions’ demonstrated that a relaxation of side setback controls, building separation distances and reduction in podium (street wall) heights, could still result in a well considered building form with scope for further floor space to be provided on the site.


Amalgamation Process


The City Centre LEP was prepared under the Standard Instrument Order, however the Standard Instrument has undergone substantial revision since its original preparation. Some rationalisation of elements of the City Centre LEP will be required however the majority of provisions of the City Centre LEP (e.g. aims, objectives, definitions, maps) are able to be readily incorporated into the new required format. Dialogue has already commenced with the regional team of the Department of Planning and Infrastructure in this regard.




Through the amalgamation process, there will need to be some rationalisation of elements of the LEP and DCP, as they currently exist, as they will be incorporated into an existing planning instrument and DCP. To this end, the majority of this will not result in any policy or positional change. Where any digression from the current policy position is identified, or mandated due to the Standard Instrument, these changes will be communicated to Council for consideration.  One such example is discussed below.


Car parking


Currently the City Centre LEP only allows car parks, as a stand alone land use, to be carried in the City Centre where they are provided by (or on behalf of) Council. This is achieved by the inclusion of wording to this effect in the Land Use table. Under the application of the new Standard Instrument Order it is likely that Council will not be able to include similar such wording in the future amalgamated LEP.  The effect of this is that a land owner/developer could make application to establish parking stations in the Parramatta CBD.


Council does not necessarily wish to encourage more public car parking and traffic within the CBD but at the same time wants to ensure that sufficient accessible parking is available for visitors and workers to do business in the Parramatta CBD. It is not anticipated that there would be an upsurge in applications for stand alone car parking stations however Council has been approached by several building owners wishing to lease out identified surplus parking spaces within existing commercial buildings. Currently the LEP prevents Council from considering such applications.


To this end, a draft set of provisions is being prepared for inclusion within the DCP to provide appropriate matters for consideration to be applied in the assessment of any future applications. The aim of which is to allow for the optimal use, to the benefit of the public and City, existing underutilised parking within the CBD (rather than the construction of new car parks) without further encouraging reliance and dependence on private car transport.


Recommended principles for amendment of the City Centre Planning Controls


The key objectives for the recommended principles for amending the City Centre planning controls are to:


·    Provide planning controls which give certainty yet enough flexibility to respond to individual site conditions

·    Allow development to realise its maximum floor-space and height

·    Provide incentives for commercial development in the Mixed Use Zone

·    Recognise and reward design excellence

·    Encourage energy efficient buildings

·    Provide visually interesting and active streets

·    Preserve & integrate the valuable Heritage fabric of the City with new development


The recommended principles for amendment of the current City Centre LEP and DCP provisions are detailed below.


LEP amendments


1. Reduce minimum lot size requirement to achieve max FSR from 2500m2 to 1800m2 and allow lots less than 1800m2 to achieve the maximum FSR if the design of the building is the result of an architectural design competition.

2. Reward commercial development by setting a greater FSR within the B4 - Mixed Use Zone & requiring a minimum percentage of commercial floor space (40%) within these developments and based on proximity to the city core.

3. Allow up to a 25% variation to FSR when undergoing a design competition (currently 10%) and include further additional criteria (e.g. energy efficiency standards, public benefit demonstration) within the enabling clause.




DCP amendments


1. Reduce the number of ‘street frontage types’ (currently seven different ones) as well as the actual maximum podium heights.

2. Strengthen DCP controls in relation to development adjacent Heritage items.

3. Relax side and rear setbacks (above podium level) for commercial development to provide for more workable/viable floor plates sizes.

4. Include provisions for the assessment of applications for use/leasing of existing car parking spaces within the City Centre.




As mentioned in the covering report, achieving the balance in planning controls between the level of regulation/restriction and flexibility can be a source of contention. It is felt that through engagement with relevant stakeholders (owners, developers, State Government) as well Council officer observation and consideration of professional advice, the right balance can be achieved. Consultation with these relevant stakeholders will occur prior to the formulation of these principles into the draft amalgamation LEP & DCP.




This balanced approach of providing planning controls which maintain a level of certainty yet provide enough flexibility to respond to site conditions is recommended to help deliver the identified vision for the Parramatta CBD.


It is also acknowledged that broader economic forces (local, national and international) may influence the level of development take up of both residential and commercial development in the Parramatta City Centre. The suggested revision of planning controls will be coupled with other Council initiatives including Council’s recently endorsed Economic Development Strategy, to collectively encourage and attract the right type of development for Parramatta.


Way forward


Subject to Council endorsement of the recommended approach it is anticipated that work will continue with the detailed preparation of this process including; planning instrument, planning proposal, maps, consultation strategy for the formal exhibitions process, consolidated DCP, etc with a view to reporting back to Council in early 2012.