City of Sydney passes amended Oxford Street planning controls

City of Sydney passes amended Oxford Street planning controls
Image: Proposed amendments to a draft development plan for the planning of Oxford Street have passed. Photo: Supplied.


In a repeat of last month’s City of Sydney council meeting, proposed amendments to a draft development control plan for Oxford Street have passed, while a motion to defer the decision for further public consultation has failed.

On Monday, during a report of the City’s Transport, Heritage, Environment and Planning Committee, lord mayor Clover Moore announced that the new Oxford Street draft development control plan (DCP) had received a number of amendments in light of “extensive” community feedback and consultation.

Community members and organisations including the National Trust of Australia have previously expressed concern that some of the new planning controls, which include changes to height and floor space allowances in new developments, could cause “irreversible damage” to the heritage character of some buildings.

Cr Moore said that the new amendments and changes to the phrasing of the DCP seek to address these concerns.

“Our staff have done extensive work in responding to the issues that have been raised. They’ve done site visits and had conversations with people who wanted change,” Cr Moore said.

Among the key amendments is the specific exclusion of some buildings from the terms of the planning controls, in order to better protect their heritage character.

The amended DCP states that this includes “24 contributory buildings, seven heritage items and two heritage items for amenity reasons” at various addresses along the Darlinghurst section of Oxford Street, in addition to the National Art School and the Courthouse Hotel on Taylor Square.

Cr Moore told the meeting that these changes would “protect significant roofscapes”. 

The DCP also notes that many of the excluded buildings would also cause “impacts on residential amenity from overshadowing” if they were subject to the potential two-storey increase in height allowance stated elsewhere in the controls.

Deferral push fails

Sylvie Ellsmore. Photo: Facebook.

Greens councillor Sylvie Ellsmore, who moved to defer the approval of the amended plan for a further 28 days of public exhibition, said that while the proposal represents “fantastic ideals and goals”, the public needed more time to give feedback.

“Everybody wants to renew and revive Oxford Street,” Cr Ellsmore said.

“There’s strong consensus and commitment from the community to recognise the LGBTQIA+ community heritage and history better, and ensure that this is a cornerstone of how the city develops that area into the future.” 

She said that another reason for suggesting the deferral was to bring approval of the plans in order with council’s timeline for the LGBTQIA+ cultural strategy.

“The planning proposal alone is not enough to guarantee that the spaces will have LGBTQIA+ communities in them, [it] can’t ensure that any of them are affordable, that was in the council’s own report. But bringing the two things together means that we have a chance to do that.”

Cr Ellsmore expressed further concern towards how a number of initially excluded sites of heritage value were once more included upon appeal.

“It is almost like we are going to a DA-like level with these individual proposals, this is not an orderly way to deal with developing what this space is going to look like for the next fifty-to-one-hundred years.”

Labor councillor Linda Scott echoed Cr Ellsmore’s concerns.

​​“In my ten years on this council, I don’t recall ever seeing a proposal with this much change made by amendment as part of the consideration of the proposal,” Cr Scott said.

She further noted that significant amendments at the site level would have “a material impact on both the owners of the sites and [their] neighbours”, adding that it was important to hear from the community again.

‘The time of taking action’ on Oxford Street

As in March, deputy lord mayor Jess Scully opposed calls for deferral, saying that Cr Ellsmore’s motion was a “mischaracterisation of the proposed adjustments”. 

“This is a compromised, adjusted position between what was publicly exhibited and what was then changed based on feedback from the community … There’s been a lot of coverage in the media, I think it’s ready for us to move forward,” Cr Scully said.

Clover Moore. Photo: Mark Dickson.

The motion was then defeated, with only councillors Ellsmore, Scott and Yvonne Weldon voting in favour of deferral.

Before voting on the amended proposal itself shortly later, Cr Moore stated her opposition to the deferral and praised the council’s response to the consultation.

“We’ve shown that not only do we consult extensively, but we also respond when we get feedback, and we make adjustments. Now we’ve reached the time of taking action … This is really about rejuvenating Oxford Street,” she said.

The amended controls were then carried, with only councillor Ellsmore in opposition.

This comes following council’s announcement last week of the draft LGBTQIA+ cultural strategy, which Cr Moore said would prioritise and protect Oxford Street’s LGBTQIA+ identity.

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