Local town centres could be given a new lease of life through new ‘Renewal Deals’ and a Challenge Fund, according to a new report published by the Committee for Sydney.

Town centres across Sydney that are struggling as jobs move into major centres like Parramatta and the Sydney CBD, must be made vibrant, economically viable locations if Sydney is to deliver on a ’30-minute city’ where everyone can access services and jobs within 30 minutes of their house.

To achieve this, the Committee is calling for the establishment of ‘Town Centre Renewal Deals’, a smaller version of the City Deal recently announced in Western Sydney, which would act as a partnership between State Government, the Greater Sydney Commission, Local Governments and major private sector stakeholders in individual town centres.

Local Governments would be able to bid for a new NSW Government ‘Town Centre Renewal Challenge Fund’, which would provide funding and statutory support to local authorities and communities that can demonstrate their commitment to renewal. The fund would undertake a competitive process to identify town centres where Local Government and community have a vision for achieving best practice renewal and permit a variety of town centre growth investments including affordable housing, infrastructure funding, business investment and joint venture projects.

The report, Re-balancing the City: Town Centre Renewal For Sydney, also establishes the key components of successful town centres, including:

  • Well linked to public transport and walkable amenities
  • A diversity of people – working, living and playing in the town centre.
  • Local jobs and businesses, including start-ups and diverse industries.
  • A vibrant night-time economy and cultural options.
  • More mixed-use and denser development
  • Key social infrastructure including schools, libraries, health facilities, leisure facilities, child play spaces, and public open space.

The report’s recommendations are the findings of a Town Centre Renewal Taskforce, coordinated by the Committee for Sydney and represented by over twenty-five organisations from the public and private sectors. The Taskforce was established to create new ideas for making town centres more economically dynamic and environmental appealing, whilst also being more pedestrian-friendly and centred on public transport accessibility.

The Chair of the Taskforce is Kerry Robinson, General Manager of Blacktown City Council and Deputy Chair is Dominic Sullivan, PAYCE Director.

Other recommendations in the report include:

  • That Local Government perform audits with community input to identify any obstacles to the delivery of successful town centres prior to developing their Challenge Fund bids;
  • That special purpose Town Centre Delivery Vehicles be established to drive the redevelopment of individual town centres.
  • That baseline data across a range of indicators is captured for use in ongoing evaluation and analysis.

Kerry Robinson, General Manager of Blacktown City Council and Chair of the Town Centre Renewal Taskforce said:

“Our traditional town centres; places like Gordon and Sutherland and St Marys, have high concentrations of Government services, public transport and shopping.  They are the places best suited to high density mixed-use development.  Development here will minimise the need for intrusion into our lower density housing areas.”

 “We need to ask why current policies, focussed only on statutory planning, are not delivering dense places suited to our elder folk, suited to families and suited to our students.  Council’s, the State and private industry need to collaborate to create real estate strategies which can allow new development which optimises the use of existing Government services and assets.”

Dominic Sullivan, PAYCE Director and Deputy Chair of the Town Centre Renewal Taskforce said:

“Our local town centres are the heart of our local communities. A growing Sydney means we need to refocus our efforts in renewing older town centres as productive, efficient, dynamic and people-centric places. The proposed Renewal Deals are a recognition of the collaboration required between communities, all levels of Government and the private sector in realising our aspirations for exciting and diverse local town centres. 

Download a copy of the report here.