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The previous issue of this journal focused on the strategic potential of architecture and design to influence the massive transformation that is taking place in the Greater Sydney region. This issue presents a balancing view of the equal importance of the positive effect of our members’ work in regional towns and cities.

Although I wasn’t able to attend the presentation of this year’s Country Division Awards a glance at the handsome printed record of the event convinces me that the work of regional architects is the equal of any in the state. Every intervention of design sensibility into regional domestic and public spaces is an advertisement for the benign influence of architecture and its positive effects on human well-being.

Well done to everyone involved. Keep up the good work.

There has been progress on a number of fronts in the big picture built environment space recently, particularly:

Coalition for NSW Planning Reform

This loose grouping of like-minded built environment organisations, including ourselves, PIA, AILA, the Property Council and the Sydney Business Chamber, first came together in August 2007 to lobby the then Labor government. We had several wins along the way – the delegation of major project assessments to the Planning Assessment Commission and the creation of the Housing Code and Joint Regional Planning Panels.

Our principal focus this time is to convince the Baird Government that the process of planning reform doesn’t need to stop just because the O’Farrell Government failed to win the support of the Legislative Council to pass its new planning legislation two years ago.

There was broad community and industry acceptance of the White Paper reforms, specifically in areas such as strategic planning, community participation and infrastructure delivery. It was mainly in the area of development assessment that the major differences and contentions arose.

The coalition is therefore proposing that Minister Stokes moves quickly to implement these reforms while also laying the groundwork for the eventual re-introduction of the new planning bill.

Greater Sydney Commission

While welcoming the government’s recent announcement of the shape of the Greater Sydney Commission, I note that design is conspicuously absent from the scheme. I have written to the Department of Planning and Environment recommending four inter-related proposals:

  • Built Environment Committee

As the principal focus of the Commission’s work is the re-configuration of the built environment of the region we have recommended the creation of a built environment committee sitting alongside the Commission’s other committees to focus on this essential task.

  • Observer status for the Government Architect’s Office (GAO)

It is clear that the GAO will be adopting a more strategic role in the future, giving it the opportunity to provide advice on the achievement of design excellence across government and public sector agencies. It would share observer status with Infrastructure NSW and UrbanGrowth NSW.

  • Design for Sydney

We envisage Design for Sydney operating in a similar manner to Design for London within the local planning context, identifying opportunities to use major infrastructure projects to create new connections and public spaces, and advising on the implementation of major public benefit programs such as the green grid strategy. It could be comprised of design experts in key government agencies.

  • Design review panel

The Commission’s Sydney Planning Panel will determine major developments currently assessed by the Sydney East and West Joint Regional Planning Panels. We therefore propose a design review panel to provide both strategic design advice and design advice on specific development proposals to the panel, following the procedures outlined in the SEPP 65 Apartment Design Guide. We recommend that the panel is chaired by the GAO, as is currently the process in South Australia.

Shaun Carter
NSW President
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