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Growing investment, business opportunities and jobs in strategic centres

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  • Infrastructure
  • Liveability
  • Productivity
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A city supported by infrastructureInfrastructure
A collaborative cityCollaboration
A city for peoplePeople
Housing the cityHousing
A city of great placesPlaces
A well connected cityConnected
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A resilient cityResilience
Planning Priority N10

Greater Sydney continues to benefit from the historic policy of locating major trip-generating activities (such as retail, hospitality, offices, health and education, community and administrative services) in centres at train stations.

The growth, innovation and evolution of centres will underpin the economy of the North District. Centres continue to be a key organising element of the urban structure of Greater Sydney and provide access to jobs, goods and services. Their vitality and viability are important to local economies and their character defines local areas. Well-planned centres help to stimulate economic activity and innovation through the co-location of activities, provide jobs closer to where people live and use infrastructure more efficiently.

This Plan builds on the existing strengths of each centre within a common framework to deliver on the wider productivity and liveability objectives to grow jobs across Greater Sydney and improve community access to good and services. To manage the growth and change of the North District's centres, a centres hierarchy has been established as outlined below:

  • Metropolitan centre: North Sydney CBD as part of the Harbour CBD (refer to Planning Priority N7)
  • Strategic centres: Brookvale-Dee Why, Chatswood, Hornsby, Manly, Mona Vale, St Leonards, Frenchs Forest and Macquarie Park (for the latter three, refer to Planning Priority N9)
  • Local centres (refer to Planning Priority N6).

All strategic centres will be the focus of public transport investments that seek to deliver the 30-minute city objective (refer to Planning Priority N12).

Some strategic centres in the North District have major office precincts or health and education activities. They differ in size and scale of economic activity. However, as strategic centres they all have similar expectations, including:

  • high levels of private sector investment
  • flexibility, so that the private sector can choose where and when to invest
  • co-location of a wide mix of activities, including residential
  • high levels of amenity, walkability and being cycle-friendly
  • areas identified for commercial uses and, where appropriate, commercial cores.

Creating the conditions for growth and making centres great places is a focus of Planning Priority N6.

Employment growth is the principal underlying economic goal for metropolitan and strategic centres. Therefore the designation of a commercial core within a strategic centre, economic and employment uses, may be necessary to manage the impact of residential developments in crowding out commercial activity.

A balance must be struck in providing adequate mixed-use or residential zoned land around the commercial core zone to ensure new residential developments can benefit from access and services in centres.

Centres are not just for economic exchange. They are places where communities gather, and where recreational, cultural and educational pursuits are found. They are important to how people participate in community life.

Delivering housing within a walkable distance of strategic centres encourages non-vehicle trips, which foster healthier communities. Housing within centres contributes to a sense of vibrancy; however, the delivery of housing should not constrain the ongoing operation and expansion of commercial and retail activities.

Research has shown that the North District will need to accommodate more than 800,000 square metres of additional retail floor space over the next 20 years18. In addition, there will be significant demand for additional office floor space. Creating the opportunities to attract retail and office development locally brings jobs closer to homes. This requires growth in either existing or new centres. The principles for developing new centres are outlined in this Planning Priority. The NSW Department of Planning and Environment will prepare a state wide retail planning policy.

Rapid changes in technology and in retail trends, emerging night-time economies and population growth require councils to be agile and responsive in their planning for centres growth. Adaptive and flexible spaces may be required, particularly in centres close to the CBD, because of an increasing demand for workspaces from start-up and creative industries.

Smart work hubs offer the conveniences of a modern office - high-speed internet, meeting rooms, video conferencing facilities, informal lounges and quiet booths - in local areas. They operate as shared workspaces with small businesses, government and corporate organisations. The creation of smart work hubs in strategic centres should be encouraged.

With economic growth a core goal for centres planning, job targets, expressed as a range, have been identified for each strategic centre, as well as for North Sydney CBD as part of the Harbour CBD. These targets seek to inform planning authorities and infrastructure agencies of anticipated growth. They should not be seen as maximum targets.

People shopping at Crows Nest About Life supermarket and wholefoods café in Willoughby Road.

Crows Nest

The lower end of the range of these job targets reflects the baseline of projected jobs growth anticipated in the centre, while the upper end is an aspirational higher growth scenario to reflect outcomes in the case of future investment and land use planning in centres.

Principles for Greater Sydney's centres

As Greater Sydney's population grows over the next 20 years, there will be a need to grow existing centres, particularly strategic centres and supermarket-based local centres, create new centres including business parks, and attract health and education activities into centres. The principles for developing new centres are:

  • Existing centres: Expansion options will need to consider building heights and outward growth. In some cases, directly adjacent industrial land may be appropriate for centre expansions to accommodate businesses. Quality design and adequate infrastructure provision is critical to enable expansions. This approach needs to be informed by local government industrial strategies.
  • New centres: These will be required across the whole of Greater Sydney.
    • In land release areas, planning is to identify a range of centre types, including large and small local centres which could grow and evolve into new strategic centres and planning should maximise the number and capacity of centres on existing or planned mass transit corridors. To deliver this latter outcome centres need to be identified early to allow their incorporation into transport infrastructure plans.
    • In established areas, innovative approaches to creating new centres are likely to be part of urban renewal and mixed-use developments.
    • All new centres are to have good public transport commensurate with the scale of the centre.
  • Business parks: Not all centres will start as retail centres. Creating jobs and providing services to local communities can be initiated within business parks. However, the built form of these business parks is critical - that is, they need to be developed, from the outset, as urban places which can transition into higher amenity and vibrant places while maintaining their main role as an employment precinct. Councils' retail and employment strategies should provide guidance on the transition of business parks into mixed employment precincts including, where appropriate, ancillary residential developments to support the business park. Crows Nest 69 Greater Sydney Commission | North District Plan
  • New health and tertiary education facilities, such as hospitals and community health centres. These should be located within or directly adjacent to centres, and ideally co-located with supporting transport infrastructure. In some cases, health and education facilities may be the anchor of a new centre. Built form is critical to facilitate the transition of centres with health and education uses into more mature innovation precincts. A mix of retail and other services including hotel type accommodation adjacent to the precinct should be supported.
  • Clusters of large format retail should be treated as part of the retail network, and planning for new clusters of large format retail should be done in the same way other new centres are planned. This includes ensuring centres are places that can grow and evolve over time, and have adequate access to transport services and quality public domains.

Increases in online ordering and home delivery means some retail is essentially a distribution centre. These 'dark retail' stores are most suited to industrial areas as they involve significant logistics support and do not require community access.

Where there is a prevalence of retail activities in an industrial area, there may be exceptional circumstances which warrant the development of a new centre. This should be informed by a net community benefit test supported by a strategic review of centres (which identifies the need for the centre) and an industrial land review (which identifies that the loss of industrial activity can be managed) for the local government area. These reviews are to be prepared by councils, and endorsed by the Greater Sydney Commission.

In the North District where there is the lowest provision of industrial and urban services lands, 'retain and manage' is the primary direction for managing industrial and urban services land and any consideration of new centres must only be determined by Councils as part of their review of their local environmental plan.

In such cases, the centre should be:

  • located where public transport services are commensurate with the scale of the centre
  • directly opposite a residential catchment accessible by a controlled pedestrian crossing
  • more than a standalone supermarket
  • of quality urban design with amenity, informed by a master plan
  • supported by planned and funded infrastructure commensurate with the needs of the centre.

For new centres in industrial areas, the economic impact of the centre should be assessed for its impact on the operation of existing businesses in the locality and the viability of surrounding centres.

Planning for new and existing centres is to:

  • be informed by council growth strategies, which should consider the network of centres, retail, commercial and industrial supply and demand and local housing strategies
  • be potentially informed by district-based studies, facilitated by collaborations between councils
  • consider the temporal nature of growth and change across Greater Sydney, both historic and future, and its influence on development opportunities at the local level
  • recognise improvements to walkability as a core outcome for change in centres
  • result in the development and implementation of land use and infrastructure plans to inform infrastructure investment and land use policy decisions
  • respond to the detailed planning considerations of Strategy 12.1 and Strategy 22.1 set out in A Metropolis of Three Cities.
A crowd of people attending an outdoor event at The Concourse, Chatswood.


Brookvale-Dee Why

The strategic centre that combines Brookvale and Dee Why provides the greatest number of jobs in the Northern Beaches. Brookvale industrial area supports niche manufacturing and wholesale industries. Warringah Mall at Brookvale is one of the largest retail areas in Greater Sydney. TAFE NSW Northern Beaches provides tertiary education for Northern Beaches residents.

Dee Why is a mixed-use area and offers a vibrant local night-time economy.

Growth of the combined centre including greater connectivity, will attract employment, retail and local services, strengthening the existing centre.

Data sources: Public open space - Sydney Open Space Audit (DPE 2016), Aerial Photo - Nearmap 2018

Download this image north_brookvale-dee_why_optimized.jpg (format PNG / 2,811 KB )
Brookvale - Dee Why Jobs
2016 Estimate 20,000
2036 Baseline Target 23,000
2036 Higher Target 26,000


Chatswood strategic centre comprises a mix of uses including retail, office, residential as well as community and health. The centre has a highly successful retail focus. The regional shopping centres of Westfield, Chatswood Chase and Mandarin Centre combine with other centres to provide one of the largest shopping precincts in Greater Sydney. Entertainment facilities such as The Concourse and Zenith Theatre and a vibrant night-time economy contribute to amenity.

Maintaining and growing a high quality commercial core will facilitate the continued growth of the centre as a major employment hub.

The proposed Sydney Metro station will improve connectivity. Further investigation regarding bus operations and accessibility on the western side of the railway would improve the amenity of the commercial core.

Transport infrastructure such as the potential Northern Beaches to Chatswood bus improvement will mean that the role of Chatswood as an interchange location connecting parts of the Northern Beaches to other Strategic Centres will increase. Planning for improvement to the interchange facilities will need to be considered.

An aerial image of Chatswood showing the principal areas containing jobs and services.

Data sources: Public open space - Sydney Open Space Audit (DPE 2016), Aerial Photo - Nearmap 2018

Download this image north_chatswood.jpg (format PNG / 754 KB )
Chatswood Jobs
2016 Estimate 24,700
2036 Baseline Target 31,000
2036 Higher Target 33,000


Hornsby strategic centre includes Westfield Hornsby, Hornsby TAFE and Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital. Hornsby Shire Council's planned reconfiguration of the bus terminal and centre renewal will better connect the centre and provide an opportunity for revitalisation.

The proposed rehabilitation of Hornsby Quarry and expansion of Hornsby Park will provide new open space for recreation within walking distance of the centre.

An aerial image of Hornsby showing the principal areas containing jobs and services.

Data sources: Public open space - Sydney Open Space Audit (DPE 2016), Aerial Photo - Nearmap 2018

Download this image north_hornsby.jpg (format PNG / 723 KB )
Hornsby Jobs
2016 Estimate 14,300
2036 Baseline Target 18,000
2036 Higher Target 22,000


Manly strategic centre includes cultural, tourist, retail and entertainment activities for residents as well as local and international visitors. The variety of restaurants and small bars contribute to a vibrant night-time economy.

Recreational opportunities from the coastal location and stunning beaches provide economic opportunities such as eco-tourism around North Head and Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve.

Manly is well served by public transport including a ferry and bus service from the Sydney CBD.

An aerial image of Manly showing the principal areas containing jobs and services.

Data sources: Public open space - Sydney Open Space Audit (DPE 2016), Aerial Photo - Nearmap 2018

Download this image north_manly.jpg (format PNG / 679 KB )
Manly Jobs
2016 Estimate 5,000
2036 Baseline Target 6,000
2036 Higher Target 6,500

Mona Vale

Mona Vale strategic centre is a mixed-use area including retail, commercial, community, light industrial and residential uses. It is a thriving centre during business hours, providing amenity, convenience and a sense of community for residents.

Mona Vale's connectivity to Brookvale-Dee Why and the Harbour CBD has improved with the commencement of the B-Line bus service which operates more frequent buses both during the day and into the evening. Further improvements to travel times, especially for those within the northern part of the peninsula, will be made when operations are extended to Newport.

An aerial image of Mona Vale showing the principal areas containing jobs and services.

Data sources: Public open space - Sydney Open Space Audit (DPE 2016), Aerial Photo - Nearmap 2018

Download this image north_mona_vale.jpg (format PNG / 678 KB )
Mona Vale Jobs
2016 Estimate 4,300
2036 Baseline Target 5,000
2036 Higher Target 6,000

Provide access to jobs, goods and services by:

a. attracting significant investment and business activity in strategic centres providing jobs growth
b. diversifying the range of activities in all centres
c. creating vibrant, safe places and quality public realm
d. focusing on a human-scale public realm and locally accessible open space
e. balancing the efficient movement of people and goods with supporting the liveability of places on the road network
f. improving the walkability within and to the centre
g. completing and improving a safe and connected cycling network to and within the centre.
h. improving public transport services to all strategic centres
i. conserving and interpreting heritage significance
j. designing parking that can be adapted to future uses
k. providing for a diverse and vibrant night-time economy in a way that responds to potential negative impacts
l. creating the conditions for residential development within strategic centres and within walking distance (up to 10 mins), but not as the expense of the attraction and growth of jobs, retailing and services; where appropriate, strategic centres should define commercial cores informed by an assessment of their need.

Councils, other planning authorities, and State agencies


Create new centres in accordance with the Principles for Greater Sydney's centres.

Councils and other planning authorities and State agencies


Prioritise strategic land use and infrastructure plans for growing centres, particularly those with capacity for additional retail floor space.

Councils and other planning authorities


Encourage opportunities for new smart work hubs.

Councils and other planning authorities


Review the current planning controls and create capacit to achieve the job targets for each of the District's strategic centres

Councils and other planning authorities


Strengthen Brookvale-Dee Why through approaches that:

a. maintain the mix of uses so that Brookvale-Dee Why continues to perform strongly as a well-balanced, self-sustaining combined centre
b. encourage and support improvements to Warringah Mall and better integrate it within the fabric and life of Brookvale-Dee Why
c. recognise and enhance the economic and employment opportunities along Pittwater Road and encourage revitalisation along the commercial strip
d. promote walking, cycling and public transport to Warringah Mall, the Brookvale industrial area and Dee Why
e. encourage the establishment of new, innovative and creative industries in the Brookvale industrial area
f. encourage new lifestyle and entertainment uses to activate local streets in Brookvale-Dee Why
g. improve connections between Brookvale-Dee Why and the Northern Beaches Hospital at Frenchs Forest.

Northern Beaches Council, relevant planning authorities and State agencies


Strengthen Chatswood through approaches that:

a. protect and grow the commercial core
b. maximise the land use opportunities provided by Sydney Metro
c. promote the role of the centre as a location for high quality, commercial office buildings and a diverse retail offering
d. enhance the role of the centre as a destination for cultural and leisure activities
e. promote and encourage connectivity, and upgrade and increase public open spaces
f. investigate interchange operations on both sides of the railway line to increase capacity and efficiency of modal changes
g. improve pedestrian connectivity between the eastern and western side of the rail line

Willoughby City Council, other planning authorities and State agencies


Strengthen Hornsby through approaches that:

a. encourage revitalisation of the commercial core
b. better integrate Westfield Hornsby into the centre and make the area more attractive
c. attract mixed-use development west of the railway line, encourage a stronger integration with the centre, and encourage the development of a lively eat street and restaurant precinct
d. unlock development potential of strata-constrained areas east of the centre
e. support health-related land uses and infrastructure around Hornsby-Ku-ring-gai Hospital
f. improve walking and cycling connections between Hornsby Station and the Hospital
g. reduce the impact of traffic movements on pedestrians
h. promote walking, cycling and public transport to and within the centre
i. prioritise public domain upgrades, place-making initiatives and a new civic space.

Hornsby Shire Council, other relevant planning authorities and State agencies


Strengthen Manly through approaches that:

a. further develop Manly as a cultural, tourist, retail and entertainment precinct
b. improve public transport connections to Manly Wharf from other lower Northern Beaches suburbs
c. provide improved public transport to Chatswood, Frenchs Forest, St Leonards, Macquarie Park and Macquarie University
d. encourage diversified commercial activity to improve economic resilience
e. encourage eco-tourism around North Head and the Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve.

Northern Beaches Council, other relevant planning authorities and State agencies


Strengthen Mona Vale through approaches that:

a. protect and enhance the commercial and retail function of the centre to provide employment growth and maintain high job containment
b. ensure sufficient retail and commercial floor space is provided to meet future demand
c. leverage Mona Vale's role as a north-south and east-west bus interchange to facilitate a greater diversity of employment and mixed-uses in the centre
d. improve access and linkages to local destinations, such as Mona Vale Hospital, through priority pedestrian networks
e. promote walking and cycling to and within the centre
f. retain and manage the industrial precinct to the north of the centre to serve the growing population
g. prioritise place-making and urban activation, including enlivening the centre.

Northern Beaches Council, other relevant planning authorities and State agencies