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Hills Mayor, Clr Dr Michelle Byrne. Hills Mayor, Clr Dr Michelle Byrne.
07 December 2012 Posted by 

Dealing with future growth

By Clr Dr Michelle Byrne
THERE is no doubt that Sydney is growing, and at The Hills Shire Council we are aware that we will need to accommodate our share of Sydney’s future growth. But what will it mean for our Shire? 

How will we deal with The Hills Shire’s share of Sydney’s future growth? How will we house new residents and create new jobs while maintaining the quality of life for those already here? And how will we make the most of the opportunities that come with the arrival of the North West Rail?

On any world measure of quality of life, Sydney rates highly, so it is not surprising that many people want to share our city.
We can’t stop the people coming, and I don’t think it’s realistic to stop building new homes to accommodate them. The reality is, you need economic and population growth to fuel and grow a healthy city.

State government estimates suggest Sydney will grow from approximately 4.2 million to 5.6 million people by 2031. As a city, we will need to find around 600,000 more jobs and 560,000 new homes over the next 20 years for this growth.
It’s not a question of if we accommodate housing and jobs growth, but how and where.

Each household averages 2.7 occupants (in The Hills it’s 3.1) and each household averages 1.6 cars (in The Hills it’s 2.1). For The Sydney Hills, we need to come up with 36,000 new homes (to house around 100,000 people), and create 35,000 more jobs by 2031 to keep pace with growth.

The choices

Conventional thinking says you have three choices to manage growth:

Build more homes on green field sites in outer areas (very expensive for infrastructure like sewerage, transport, roads); introduce more medium density options like low-rise town houses and apartments spread across all existing suburbs changing the character of our suburban quarter acre blocks; or create high density living around transport infrastructure like railway stations and bus routes (with less impact on existing suburbs).

The question is: what is the correct mix of these choices for us?  I have always maintained that in the Sydney Hills, we need to manage our future growth while maintaining that special quality we all enjoy about living here.

What’s in store for the future?

We know we have to make good decisions about how Sydney and in particular, The Sydney Hills, will grow over the next 20 years. If we choose to grow by further urban sprawl, it will doubtful that Sydney could ever afford the road and transport networks to support it.

Our current approach is to consider placing higher densities around our town centres. If we do choose to locate higher density buildings near our major centres, they can be well planned and attractive. They can have good access to services and be planned in a way that will benefit existing communities.

We need to choose our locations wisely, and we need to ensure developments provide high quality living and contribute in a positive way to how our shire looks.

The North West Rail Link

The State Government has made the delivery of the North West Rail Link a priority. It is estimated that the project is an investment of around $9 billion, and will provide transport options to our residents.

The question is: how do we make best use of the coming of the rail? Could we consider greater building heights around some of the new stations?

Would doing this ensure our suburbs maintain a desirable low-density character while we accommodate increased housing supply?

Urban consolidation around stations could create vibrant centres with shops, cafes and recreation facilities that contribute to attractive living and neighbourhood safety – but these are only financially viable through higher local populations.

If we allow higher buildings near stations could that ease congestion by ensuring at least a high proportion of our new residents use the T-way or rail?

Our challenge is to find the right balance for our future. We must ensure developments that allow for greater populations have an emphasis on quality design, services and facilities that ensure a great quality of life for both new and existing residents.


Clr Dr Michelle Byrne is Mayor of The Hills Shire.



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