City News

Sydney to consider push for 500m towers

Sydney's skyline at dusk. Source: wikipedia.commons

By James Elton-Pym


The City of Sydney will next week consider joining Parramatta Council in lobbying for a federal review of building height limits so skyscrapers could reach as high as 500 metres.
Liberal councillor Christine Forster, who tabled the motion ahead of next Monday’s council meeting, said Sydney was “geographically constrained” like a “squashed sausage” and needed to expand vertically.
“Taller buildings have a smaller environmental footprint, they offer economies of scale and they can give us greater opportunities for housing,” Clr Forster said.
“We wouldn’t want to be left behind Parramatta. We compete on a global scale with other cities in the region which have very tall buildings, but we also compete with other centres in Sydney in terms of jobs and people so we don’t want to be left behind.”
Sydney’s tallest structure at present, the Sydney Tower, stands at 309m. The height limit for most new buildings in the CBD is 235m.
While Parramatta Council voted unanimously earlier this month in favour of pushing for a federal review of building height caps, Clr Forster may not find the same bipartisanship in the City of Sydney.
Labor councillor Linda Scott did not rule out voting for Clr Forster’s motion but said it was low on the list of Sydney’s priorities.
“To be calling for a review of building heights in Sydney, as if the height of our buildings determines the success of our city, I think is short-sighted,” she said.
“Frankly I don’t have people coming to knock on my door saying there’s a great shortage of commercial space. Increasing the height of buildings may lead to an oversupply of commercial space.”
Clr Forster said while she advocated for raising the maximum limit she did not expect 500m buildings to actually be built in the CBD.
“I cant envisage that we’d be allowed to put 500m tall buildings in the city. It’d be nice but I don’t think it’s going to happen,” she said.
She said the northern and western parts of the CBD had the most room to grow upwards.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore said earlier this month that she supported a review of the height restrictions due to Sydney Airport but said they had not hampered development in the CBD, Fairfax Media reported.
A Department of Infrastructure spokesperson told City Hub that strict regulations of building heights were essential for the safety of Sydney’s airspace.
Australia’s laws reflect international standards set out by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the spokesperson said, but could change independently if it “would maintain or improve aviation safety and efficiency”.
A spokesperson for Parramatta Council said the support of the City of Sydney would help provide “further impetus” for a review of the legislation.
“We welcome the support of City of Sydney councillor Christine Forster,” the spokesperson said.
“Like Parramatta, development in the City of Sydney is also impeded by restrictive height limits.”
Parramatta’s push for a review of height restrictions began when the council’s plan to build the 306m Aspire residential tower was cut down by aviation authorities last year.
The Department of Infrastructure spokesperson did not confirm whether the demands of two councils would be enough to trigger a legislative review.
Clr Forster said she did not know how much pressure would be needed.
“But if the two major centres of Sydney and Parramatta asked the Minister for Planning to seek a review at the federal level then you’d hope that something would happen,” she said.
Clr Forster said Sydney could benefit from more remarkable towers, and used the example of the “amazing” Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
“Why not have something as iconic as that in Sydney? I think it’d be a great thing,” she said.
Clr Scott said Sydney should not be looking to Parramatta for inspiration.
“I don’t think we can in any way argue that the two cities are comparable. Parramatta has completely different needs,” she said.
“We should be looking globally to the best cities in the world for ideas about Sydney’s future and we should be looking to our own residents.”

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