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 identifies 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 Katoomba, Picton and Camden and riverside neighbourhoods like Richmond and Windsor, together with major shopping precincts, and distinctive dining and night-time precincts at Penrith and Cabramatta.
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 the 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 working, the design of streets affects the attractiveness, vitality and viability of a place.