Willoughby economic studies

Two consultant economic studies, commissioned by Council to inform ongoing strategic planning in Willoughby City Council, were finalised this year.

They are:

 The Willoughby Economic Development Study prepared by SGS Economics and Planning, which provides economic analysis and recommendations for strategic, retail and industrial centres across the LGA. Councillors were briefed on the draft SGS report on 16 May 2016 when hard copies of the report were made available; and

 Chatswood CBD Competitive and Comparative Analysis by AEC Group which confirms Council’s policy of resisting residential proposals in the Commercial Core area as an important element in the future success of the CBD. Both reports are already proving useful not only in strategic planning work but also in District Planning discussions with the Greater Sydney Commission and the assessment of planning proposals for sites in commercial and industrial areas across WCC.

Willoughby Economic Development Study (SGS Economics and Planning) May 2016

SGS Key Findings

 This report examined the commercial, retail and industrial precincts across the whole LGA and made recommendations for future planning directions.

 A summary of the Key Findings of the Study as identified by SGS is as follows:

Chatswood fulfils its function as a strategic centre having both a commercial and retail role.

  • Chatswood has forecast future demand for an additional 191,000sqm of employment space by 2041.
  • In addition to Chatswood, mixed use development including retail and other employment floor space needs to be facilitated in smaller centres.
  • St Leonards requires coordinated planning with the State Government and neighbouring Councils.
  • Artarmon industrial area is highly successful and needs to be protected for employment.
  • East Chatswood industrial area has capacity for growth but needs careful planning as it evolves.
  • Demand and capacity analysis highlights a need to review controls in the village and small village centres of Northbridge, Artarmon, Castlecrag, Victoria Ave/ Penshurst St, Penshurst St/Mowbray Rd.

SGS Recommendations

 SGS have made the following recommendations:


  • Protect commercial core and maintain employment potential.
  • Enhance amenity and activation in fringe, lesser performing retail precincts.
  • Reduce pressure by facilitating mixed use elsewhere and constraining traffic growth.

 St Leonards

  • Resolve the future role of St Leonards with Lane Cove and North Sydney Councils and the Department of Planning and Environment.

 Smaller Commercial Centres.

  • Provide new opportunities for retail and employment floor space in the smaller retail centres
  • Provide for additional food, grocery and supermarket floor space to meet existing and future demand
  • Undertake further analysis

 Artarmon Industrial Precinct

  • Protect existing and investigate potential to increase employment capacity.

 East Chatswood

  • Protect existing employment capacity. Consider and plan for future evolution associated with a possible supermarket development.

Chatswood CBD Competitive and Comparative Analysis (AEC Group) May 2016

 AEC undertook a high level analysis of Chatswood CBD, examining its competitive offer as an employment centre compared to its main competitors, to help plan for future growth.

 AEC Key Findings

  • Chatswood CBD is very competitive as a commercial office market given its small size. Vacancy rates in the Chatswood CBD have improved from 20% in 2010 to around 7.7% in December 2015 despite competition from North Sydney, St Leonards and Macquarie Park.
  • Although the recent increase in residential development in the Chatswood CBD has improved the liveability and vibrancy of the centre, the destination of Chatswood as a major employment centre needs to be carefully maintained and supported.
  • New supply of office developments has been inhibited because the economic rents required to justify new commercial development are too high compared to the current rents being achieved.
  • With the exception of Sydney CBD, no comparable retail precinct has a provision of retail floor space greater than Chatswood (approximately 200,000sqm). The study identifies the demand for a full-line supermarket such as Woolworths and additional mini-majors in the Chatswood retail precinct.

Main AEC Recommendations

  • Residential uses should continue to be excluded from the B3 Commercial Core Zone.
  • Distinct Role and Function of Chatswood

Chatswood fulfils the role of offering affordable space with a range of tenant sizes in a high amenity environment close to excellent public transport.  Maintaining a corporate image and preserving opportunities to allow investment in office development when the time is ripe and market conditions are conducive is important.

 Critical mass

Given the small commercial core of Chatswood, AEC emphasises the importance of “holding the line” to maintain the critical mass required for office precincts to remain competitive. This strategy will provide an incentive at the appropriate time in the future for refurbishment and upgrade of existing space.

  • Commercial Floor Space within Mixed-use Buildings

While demand for retail and commercial floor space has strengthened commensurate with growth of residential uses in Chatswood, retail and commercial suites within a mixed use development that is dominated by residential uses need careful planning and design, as well as astute market positioning to be sustainable.

Incentives for Smaller Commercial Tenancies

There is a need to provide for small tenancies in Chatswood to cater for a range of businesses.  As building owners often prefer to deal with large tenancies, there needs to be incentives offered to provide flexible design in buildings from the outset.

 Increase in Market Profile of Chatswood

Chatswood as a commercial destination should be promoted by Council in conjunction with building owners.  Renewal and upgrades of strategic sites and public spaces will increase the overall appeal of Chatswood thereby stimulating rent increases and further redevelopment of the Commercial Core.

The reports have been placed on Council’s website for public information at. http://www.willoughby.nsw.gov.au/Development/planning-rules/strategic-land-use-planning/


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