A metropolis of three cities

The Great Sydney Commission (GSC) has released is planning framework for Sydney through to 2056. This is a massive report, so we will only be able to consider a portion of its components. In their wisdom the GSC has not released a searchable plan – making it difficult to review the plan appropriately.Like many plans, it is long on rhetoric, short on detail.

Sydney will continue to grow from its current 4.7 million people to nearly double to a staggering  8 million in 2056 thus creating a minimum of 725,000 new dwellings
and an extra 817,000 jobs

In past state government plans for housing Sydney’s burgeoning population the mantra was ‘Urban Consolidation’. This mandated that the majority of population growth should be accommodated with the inner and middle ring suburbs (of which Willoughby and Chatswood is one). The aim or urban consolidation was to limit the expansion of Sydney on its periphery on the incorrect assumption that development would be cheaper than building new infrastructure. In fact, urban consolidation went a long way to irreparably damaging community assets such as schools, open space and transport.

The first iteration of the GSC plan for Sydney established six districts. Willoughby was grouped with Hornsby, Hunters Hill, Ku-ring-gai, Lane Cove, Northern Beaches, Mosman, North Sydney and Ryde local government areas. This was a welcome move to the opportunity to plan on a regional level but did not go far enough. The latest plan divides Sydney into three:

3 cities

  • Eastern harbour city (Sydney)
  • Central river city (Parramatta)
  • Western parkland city (2nd airport)

There are two major benefits to the GSC approach. Firstly, the bigger the scale the better it is to form a strategic view of an area. Secondly, it may allow an easier tracking of political largess in attempt to assure an equitable distribution of resources.


population increasepopulation legend

The predictions above show that finally Willoughby will get some relief from Sydney’s population increases.


headerdwelling growth

Finally, established Sydney will receive some relief from continued growth with the proportion of new dwellings dropping in favour of growth on the perimeter of the City.

Like in previous plans, the GSC have establised housing target (this time at district level.

Housing targets

It is unclear how a district target will be spread across the district. Most likely, current development patterns will be emulated with the exception of any renewal areas that may emerge.





One of the key elements of the plan is to provide transport infrastructure to reduce travel to work distance. This has a flow on environmental benefit effects as well as positive lifestyle benefits.



There are a number of aspects of the Three Cities transport plan that are confusing and disappointing,

  • there is no efficient link between the extension of the M1 and its intersection with the M2 for traffic heading into the city. The layout favours linkages to the M7. The impact of this deficiency is an unlikely reduction in traffic volumes on the Pacific Highway.
  • there is no commitment to a public transport link between Parramatta and Epping/Chatswood. The link being investigated is for a Mass Transit option. If this were to be light rail (rather than a Metro) it would require a transfer at Epping
  • on a positive front, the government is investigating an extension of the M1 starting west of Epping and heading to Sydney Airport via Sydney Olympic Park. Potentially, this could reduce traffic on the Pacific Highway, M2 and Lane Cove Tunnel and the harbour crossings.

Commercial, Educational and Health Precincts

In this new plan, Chatswood maintains its status as a Strategic Centre (predominately based around retail and commercial activities). However, Chatswood is triangulated by surrounding Health and Education nodes at Macquarie Park, French’s Forest and St Leonards. This has the potential to see significant cross-centre traffic via Chatswood which would require an upgrade of local road infrastructure (particulalrly the Pacific Highway). No such upgrades are mentioned.

Economic Corridor

After robust advocacy by the Northern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils, the concept of a ‘Golden Arc’ from Sydney Airport via North Sydney and to Macquarie has been acknowledged.

economic corridor

The ‘Golden Arc’ is a powerhouse of wealth generation and underpins Sydney’s role as an international city. It is deserving of far more infrastructure and government investment than in past decades.

Culturally rich and diverse communities

asian languages

The GSC are predicting that over 30%of the population will speak an Asian language at home. Based on previous trends, this will likely be higher within Willoughby.

Environmental Considerations

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the GSCs environmental initiatives is termed the green web.  In a densely populated city such as Sydney (particularly in inner and middle ring suburbs, it is difficult to generate new open space. Instead, the pragmatic approach adopted by the GSC is to make the best of what is available by ‘connecting the dots’ establishing conections between existing spaces.

Green web

Other aspects

There are many other aspects to the plan. In particular, the sections on affordable housing and industrial lands are worth a read.






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