High-rise Sydney: Tall buildings and unit blocks on the up

Published December 30th 2018

By Ben Pike for the Daily Telegraph

High-rise Sydney: Tall buildings and unit blocks on the up

As councils and the state government scramble to build another 725,000 Sydney homes by 2036, the city is reaching up as well as out.

The Sunday Telegraph can reveal that 18 of Sydney’s 34 councils now have a high-rise building taller than 50m — and the new generation of tall towers will change the city landscape forever.

Outer suburban areas reaching high into the sky include Hurstville, Auburn, Dee Why, Eastgardens, Castle Hill, Blacktown and Liverpool.

Sydney is getting so tall the Civil Aviation Safety Authority regularly talks developers down from building towers that could pose a danger for aircraft.

“Sydney Airport has often discussed options with developers, including amended proposals with lower heights that have subsequently been approved,” a Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities spokesman said.

“The Department also provides comments to relevant planning authorities on proposals that impact airspace protection and this has included comments that the Department cannot support a building that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has advised would have an unacceptable impact on aviation safety.”

Federal aviation authorities have considered and approved hundreds of buildings in Greater Sydney in the past five years.

One of the starkest examples of high-rise development has been Liverpool’s 93m Liberty Tower.

Lateral Estate general manager Maria Skarparis said the building has become an “iconic” part of Sydney’s skyline.

“It is the first thing you see when you are coming into Liverpool or when you’re travelling on the M5,” she said of the 300-apartment tower.

“Liverpool is becoming southwest Sydney’s CBD.”

While Sydney is building some of its tallest buildings ever, some areas are also witnessing an unprecedented number of new apartments being built.

When comparing the three years to 2015 with the three years to 2018, Hornsby Council has seen a 331 per cent increase in the number of dwellings, of which the large majority are apartments, completed.

This is the highest percentage increase in Sydney, followed by Waverley (266 per cent), Strathfield (174 per cent), Cumberland (154 per cent), Ryde (97 per cent) and Bayside (97 per cent) council areas.

In terms of overall numbers, Parramatta, Sydney city, Blacktown, Bayside and Camden councils have absorbed the most, each building between 7000 and 12,000 new homes between 2015 and 2018.

Janelle McIntosh is a Hornsby Labor councillor who has lived in ­Asquith all her life.

She said the northern Sydney suburb has been swamped with five- to six-storey high-rise buildings along Peats Ferry Rd.

Like many areas of Sydney, Ms McIntosh has been surprised by the speed and scale of change.

“It’s a huge amount of development in a small period of time. There has been so much shock in the community. They can’t believe it,” she said.


She said she has copped a lot of blowback from residents.

“Parents who are driving from Mt Colah and Mount Ku-ring-gai to Hornsby used to take five minutes for their trip; now they take 20 minutes,” she said.

Seventy-eight per cent of new dwellings built in Sydney are apartments, according to Infrastructure Australia, compared to 22 per cent greenfield detached housing.

This is the highest proportion of apartment building in Australia.

A NSW Department of Planning spokesman said the state government is spending $88 billion on infrastructure over the forward estimates (four years) — “the largest investment in infrastructure that any state has ever seen”.

“Government recognises infrastructure needs to go in with new development, not after the fact,” he said.

“The government also recognises that infrastructure includes green space, so since 2011 the government has purchased approximately 585ha of land for open space, transferring almost half of it (258ha) to local councils and the Western Sydney Parklands Trust.

“In April 2018 the government announced the $290m Open Spaces and Greener Sydney package, which outlined an ongoing commitment to make Sydney a greener, healthier, more liveable city.”

Hornsby mayor Philip Ruddock said the council would try to avoid further high-rise development around railway stations.

“I’m pro-appropriate development, not anti-development,” Mr Ruddock said. “We’ve come to a view as a council that if we are going to meet future demands it would be preferable to do it in a properly planned way in the Hornsby CBD.”

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