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Creating and renewing great places and local centres, and respecting the District's heritage

Explore the plans

  • Infrastructure
  • Liveability
  • Productivity
  • Sustainability
  • All
A city supported by infrastructureInfrastructure
A collaborative cityCollaboration
A city for peoplePeople
Housing the cityHousing
A city of great placesPlaces
A well connected cityConnected
Jobs and skills for the cityJobs
A city in its landscapeLandscape
An efficient cityEfficiency
A resilient cityResilience
Planning Priority N6

Greater Sydney's cities, centres and neighbourhoods each have a unique combination of local people, history, culture, arts, climate, built form and natural features creating places with distinctive identities and functions. Great places build on these characteristics to create a sense of place that reflects shared community values and culture. Through this, they attract residents, workers, visitors, enterprise and investment.

Great places include all parts of the public realm such as open space, streets, centres and neighbourhoods and the interface with the private realm which includes residential, commercial and industrial streetscapes. They exhibit design excellence and start with, and focus on, open space and a people-friendly public realm. They recognise and celebrate the local character of the place and its people.

To create great places, the mechanisms for delivering public benefits need to be agreed early in the planning process, so that places provide a combination of the following elements as set out in A Metropolis of Three Cities:

  • Well-designed built-environment: great places are enjoyable and attractive, they are safe, clean and flexible with a mix of sizes and functions.
  • Social infrastructure and opportunity: great places are inclusive of people of all ages and abilities, with a range of authentic local experiences and opportunities for social interaction and connection.
  • Fine grain urban form: great places are walkable, of human scale with a mix of land uses including social infrastructure and local services at the heart of communities.

The District's great places include local and strategic centres such as Crows Nest, Lane Cove and North Sydney; beachside neighbourhoods like Avalon and Narrabeen; major shopping precincts, and distinctive dining and night-time precincts such as Chatswood and Manly. Spectacular views of Sydney Harbour, the CBD skyline, an expansive coastline, waterways and bushland provide the focal points for many great places across the North District.

The unique character and distinctive mix of land uses, activities, social connectors and functions in these places provide social and physical connectivity, local diversity and cultural richness, all of which contribute to the liveability of neighbourhoods and enhance people's quality of life.

Improving liveability in urban environments necessitates planning for a mix of high quality places that engage and connect people and communities. Co-locating activities and social infrastructure in mixed-use areas is a more efficient use of land and enhances the viability of, and access to, great places, centres and public transport.

To deliver high quality, community specific and place-based outcomes, planning for the District should integrate site specific planning proposals with precinct-wide place and public domain outcomes through place-based planning. This is a method by which great places can capitalise on the community's shared values and strengths and the place's locally distinctive attributes through collaboration and meaningful community participation.

As the population grows and demographics change, more high quality public places will be required in and around centres. Ground level places including streets, plazas, parks and recreation spaces provide places for community events, markets and festivals and for encouraging social interaction and active lifestyles. Growth and renewal will increase opportunities to expand and connect these places and to explore innovative public places, such as rooftops and podiums.

Streets as places

Streets are the most common places in any city. They connect and unite communities. The way streets meet people's different needs is fundamental to the way the city is experienced. Streets are important for moving people and goods between places, but are also important places for people and street life, enhancing social and economic participation. A Metropolis of Three Cities and Future Transport 2056 adopt a common approach to balancing the dual functions of streets (refer to Figure 12).

Creating and renewing streets as great places is therefore key to improving liveability. Walkable places, particularly streets, need to be designed, built and managed to encourage people of all ages and abilities to walk or cycle for leisure, transport or exercise. Walkable neighbourhoods support an active street life, which enhances community connections, safety and the success of local businesses, and improves social and economic participation. Improving walkability should guide decision-making on locations for new jobs and housing, and prioritisation of transport, health, schools and social infrastructure investments.

Although streets differ in their function and character, maximising opportunities for walking, safe cycling and social interaction is a priority This requires allocation of road space between footpaths, cycleways, public transport and vehicles that considers people's safety needs, and balances movement and place functions in response to the type of street and local conditions.

This occurs through design and management of the street environment. The pattern and amount of road space allocated to pedestrians, cyclists, public transport and private vehicles and the speed of travel are important considerations. Where streets are destinations for shopping, dining, meeting friends, accessing transport or walking, the design of streets affects the attractiveness, vitality and viability of a place.

Leading a healthy and active life means substituting walking and cycling for short car journeys. More people can be encouraged to walk and cycle where there is a safe road environment and suitable pathways10 (refer to Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan Customer Outcome 3).

Figure 12: Movement and place framework

Diagram showing Movement and place framework.

Source: Future Transport 2056 and Greater Sydney Commission

Places for people like Manly Corso, Mount St Plaza in North Sydney and Lane Cove Plaza perform intense place functions with highly significant local pedestrian movements.

Vibrant streets like Victoria Avenue, Chatswood are important places for street life and transport.

Local streets provide the principal opportunity for formal and informal connections with neighbours and the local community. They must also provide good local access.

Movement corridors such as Pittwater Road, Pittwater provide safe, and efficient movement between centres, and neighbourhoods, whilst balancing the needs of the places and the communities it passes through.

Download this image north_figure_12.png (format PNG / 135 KB )

This requires better:

  • Accessibility: footpaths need to be suitable for use by people of all ages and abilities.
  • Connectivity: direct routes to local destinations and services are required along streets that allocate sufficient road space to safe walking and cycling. A permeable and well-connected urban form that has human scale and attractive streetscapes. In local streets with low traffic volumes, safe cycling can be encouraged through design of the street environment for low vehicle speeds.
  • Amenity: safe, direct and comfortable pedestrian pathways for all people are essential. Where footpaths, pedestrian crossings and wayfinding are of universal design, have appropriate lighting, shading, pram ramps, rest points and natural surveillance to maintain comfortable and safe conditions for pedestrians with mobility constraints, all of the community benefits, and people are able to be more active and healthy.

In addition, provision of fine grain urban form and land use mix through the co-location of schools, retail services and transport infrastructure in local centres contributes to enhanced walkability as well as the viability of, and access to, great places, centres and public transport.

Transport for NSW is also establishing the Principal Bicycle Network which will connect centres with high quality cycling routes.

Local centres

Local centres include many of the District's great places: from a cluster of local shops, like those at Killarney Heights, to Eastwood and West Ryde that provide culturally diverse eating and shopping experiences. Local Centres such as Gordon and Pennant Hills are accessible with bus and rail networks linking to strategic centres. Ryde has potential to expand to expand as a civic and commercial hub, with localised services offering social infrastructure services and cultural facilities.

Local centres such as Mosman and Avalon serve as community hubs with natural and scenic qualities that enhance their character. Turramurra, St Ives and Cherrybrook are emerging as destinations for eateries and cafes offering unique neighbourhood qualities and cultural facilities.

Local centres are a focal point of neighbourhoods and where they include public transport and transport interchanges, they are an important part of a 30-minute city. While local centres are diverse and vary in size, they provide essential access to day-to-day goods and services close to where people live.

Future Transport 2056 identifies the importance of transport interchanges as places which will have a high level of accessibility which is enhanced as service frequencies and travel times are improved. There will be potential for interchanges to deliver mixed-use, walkable, cycle-friendly centres and neighbourhoods. As service frequencies and travel times are improved, there is a need for councils to consider local conditions through place-based planning that provides for centres around interchanges to grow and evolve over time.

Local centres also have an important role in providing local employment. Approximately 200 local centres include a supermarket with floorspace greater than 1,000 square metres. These centres account for close to 18 per cent of all Greater Sydney's jobs (refer to Figure 13).

The mapped local centres in Figure 13 are not exhaustive as there are many local centres without a supermarket that provide essential local functions such as access for goods and services, social or community infrastructure or transport interchanges. Rural towns and villages also provide essential goods and services and are an important focus for the local community.

Figure 13: North District – centres

The map illustrates the approximate five-minute walking catchment around local centres serviced by local transport and the approximate 10-minute walking catchment around a centre focused on a mass transit stop.

The map illustrates the approximate five-minute walking catchment around local centres serviced by local transport and the approximate 10-minute walking catchment around a centre focused on a mass transit stop. Actual walking catchments of 5-10 minutes will depend on local connections and conditions and should be determined using a place-based approach within which housing, retail and commercial growth opportunities need to be balanced and planned for by councils

Download this image north_figure_13.jpg (format PNG / 679 KB )

Principles for local centres

As part of the exhibition of the revised draft district plans, a number of councils recommended additions to the centres identified in Figure 13. As the management of local centres is predominantly led by councils, the resolution of which local centres are important to each council will need to be assessed as part of their preparation of local strategic planning statements and local environmental plans. Councils will need to consider which centres:

  • will be appropriate to accommodate additional housing as part of their housing strategy
  • will need to grow to provide for the required goods and services of the community
  • may also need to grow to deliver other roles for the community, such as recreational, cultural and community hubs.

This hierarchy of local, strategic and metropolitan centres (including transport interchanges) should be informed by an evidence-based assessment of local and district-wide housing, employment, retail, commercial services and infrastructure demand.

An understanding of the identity, character, size, land use mix, function, catchment and potential of each local centre and the local centres' hierarchy will inform housing strategies. Additional residential development within a five-minute walk of a centre focused on local transport, or within a 10-minute walk of a centre with city-shaping or city-serving public transport, will help create walkable local centres. However, housing should not compromise a centre's primary role to provide goods and services, and the opportunity for the centre's employment function to grow and change over time.

Place-based planning for centres should address the following principles:

  • provide public realm and open space focus
  • deliver transit-oriented development and co-locate facilities and social infrastructure
  • provide, increase or improve local infrastructure and open space
  • improve walking, cycling and public transport connections including through the Greater Sydney Green Grid
  • protect or expand retail and/or commercial floor space
  • protect or expand employment opportunities.
  • integrate and support arts and creative enterprise and expression
  • support the night-time economy
  • augment or provide community facilities, services, arts and cultural facilities
  • conserve and interpret heritage values
  • accommodate local festivals, celebrations, temporary and interim uses
  • increase residential development in, or within a walkable distance of, the centre
  • provide parking that is adaptable to future uses and takes account of access to public transport, walking and cycling connections.

A vibrant and safe night-time economy will enhance the social and recreational needs of communities across Greater Sydney. Planning for a night-time economy in centres includes supporting a range of small businesses such as retail, arts and cultural enterprises and events.


Heritage and history are important components of local identity and contribute to great places. The District's rich Aboriginal, cultural and natural heritage reinforces its sense of place and identity. A variety of local heritage items and heritage streetscapes also form part of the character of centres throughout the District.

The District's communities share heritage items and historic places such as the State heritage listed Sydney Harbour Bridge and Aboriginal place listings, rock art sites, middens and conservation areas. The District's natural and cultural heritage values are reflected in its landscape and rural areas, water catchment and ridgelines.

Identifying, conserving, interpreting and celebrating Greater Sydney's heritage values leads to a better understanding of history and respect for the experiences of diverse communities. Heritage identification, management and interpretation are required so that heritage places and stories can be experienced by current and future generations.

Sympathetic built-form controls and adaptive re-use of heritage are important ways to manage the conservation of heritage significance and new development. Respectfully combining history and heritage with modern design achieves an urban environment that demonstrates shared values and contributes to a sense of place and identity. It is particularly important for transitional areas, places experiencing significant urban renewal, and where it is necessary to take account of the cumulative impacts of development on heritage values. Improved public access and connection to heritage through innovative interpretation is also required.

Understanding the significance and community values of heritage early in the planning process provides the greatest opportunity for conservation and management. Protection and management of heritage is undertaken by a broad range of stakeholders including Aboriginal people, State and local governments, businesses and communities.

The Office of the NSW Government Architect has prepared guidelines in Better Placed: An integrated design policy for the built environment of New South Wales, which support the creation and renewal of great places, for use by all practitioners including State and local governments, businesses and the community.

Place-based planning

Place-based planning is a design-led and collaborative way of examining the complexity of the city by viewing it as a mosaic of different places, each with unique potential and characteristics. It is a means of better understanding a place, and building relationships and collaboration to deliver a vision and solutions that respond to a place's potential.

Focusing on how specific places work and collaborative processes that recognise the value and need for local expertise, knowledge, responsibility and investment allows development of a shared vision and values.

People involved in the process vary depending on the circumstances, nature and scale of the task and may include the community, local businesses, residents, State and local governments and other stakeholders.

A shared vision for a place that resolves different perspectives and interests can then be created.

The shared vision and a spatial framework for a place provide the basis for future development, governance and allocation of responsibilities. The outputs of place-based planning detail how the vision will be implemented and the place activated, monitored and managed. Place-based planning is also a way of managing change over time through staging, sequencing and revisioning that allows for continual adjustments and improvements.

A placed-based planning approach can be applied to streets, neighbourhoods, local centres and larger scale urban renewal. This approach also underpins the development of strategies in Collaboration Areas.


Using a place-based and collaborative approach throughout planning, design, development and management, deliver great places by:

a. prioritising a people-friendly public realm and open spaces as a central organising design principle
b. recognising and balancing the dual function of streets as places for people and movement
c. providing fine grain urban form, diverse land use mix, high amenity and walkability, in and within a 10-minute walk of centres
d. integrating social infrastructure to support social connections and provide a community hub
e. recognising and celebrating the character of a place and its people

Councils, other planning authorities, State agencies and State-owned corporations


In Collaboration Areas, Planned Precincts, Growth Areas and planning for centres:

a. investigate opportunities for precinct based provision of adaptable car parking and infrastructure in lieu of private provision of car parking
b. ensure parking availability takes into account the level of access by public transport
c. consider the capacity for places to change and evolve, and accommodate diverse activities over time
d. incorporate facilities to encourage the use of car sharing, electric and hybrid vehicles including changing stations.

Councils, other planning authorities, and State agencies


Identify, conserve and enhance environmental heritage by:

a. engaging with the community early in the planning process to understand heritage values and how they contribute to the significance of the place
b. applying adaptive re-use and interpreting of heritage to foster distinctive local places
c. managing and monitoring the cumulative impact of development on the heritage values and character of places.

Councils, other planning authorities, State agencies and State-owned corporations


Use place-based planning to support the role of centres as a focus for connected neighbourhoods.

Councils, other planning authorities, and State agencies


Use flexible and innovative approaches to revitalise high streets in decline.

Councils, other planning authorities, and State agencies