Sue Day – The Voice of Penrith

Image source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Building Approvals, Australia (8731.0). Compiled and presented by .id, the population experts.

Stop Council Rate Hikes

We have had record growth, yet rates are increasing.

Council is contributing to the skyrocketing household expenses for Penrith Families

Support my plan to stop rate hikes.

I will fight against Council rate rises, in the current climate. There is no justification in increases! Especially, as Council are ignoring the critical infrastructure backlog.

Penrith Council’s Residential Rating Trends 2013-2016

The average Rate increase over the last three years                                   6.53%

There are ways to control the increases on rates and charges that are not subject to rate-pegging.

Councils do have the option not charge for services that you do not use. I will be fighting hard for this to be introduced.

More importantly, I will fight for an increase to the concession for ordinary rates for our Pensioners and for any one who falls under the grounds of hardship.  This is what we need to do for the most vulnerable in our communities

Certain rates and charges are not subject to rate-pegging. I will ensure that the Council provides details of what they are proposing to charge in the draft management plan and I will campaign against rate hikes and I guarantee to meet with as many local residents during the submission periods to discuss proposed rates and charges.



Council receives around 43 per cent of its total revenue from the LGA’s 69,614 rateable properties, and each property’s rate value is determined by its land value.

Worst still:

Penrith was the only metropolitan council to apply for and be granted a special rate variation, aiming to boost services and deliver grand plans with the extra $46 million.


Council’s Long Term Financial Plan (LTFP) identified the need to establish a Major Projects Reserve to support investment in major Regional City Infrastructure as our City grows.

This Reserve will provide capacity for Council to deliver or contribute towards the delivery of the infrastructure our City needs into the future and could include multi-deck carparks, community facilities, open space improvements, and sporting facilities.

This Reserve was established in 2015-16 and currently has a balance of $4,500,000, with potential to allocate a future surplus along with annual allocations of $1.5m commencing from 2018-19

The development of the draft 2018-19 budget will incorporate annual savings already identified in prior years and will continue to focus on identifying areas where further productivity savings can be achieved.

To support this process, and following on from the Capacity Review, an Innovation Performance Team has been formed on 2017-18 with funding from the Productivity Reserve.

This team will lead a 12-month project to improve the way we deliver services to the community, reviewing our current processes to deliver an even more effective organisation.

We need to channel any extra funds back to the people.

So: We need to change the system, we need a framework built into yearly budgets.

A framework that sets a target to pass on any savings back to rate payers

Future plans for innovation and efficiency should also include a target that can be redistributed back to Rates.

Penrith Council should then utilise the Local NSW Infrastructure renewal scheme to fix the critical back log of infrastructure desperately needed in Penrith residents


Under the fees and charges provision, there is a pricing structure, if there is an excess over costs, the a percentage of the excess should be directed back to the annual Rate charge


When will the major parties understand, Growth at any rate is not

The right approach. The council priorities are causing living costs in Penrith to skyrocket. Rate payers are not receiving the benefit of this growth it’s not being funnelled into critical infrastructure or reducing the cost of living in Penrith.

A Council Survey report and highlighted the primary concerns for residents of the Penrith area over the next 10 years are:

  • Infrastructure, catering for growing and diverse population, including the new airport
  • Overpopulation/urban sprawl and pollution, traffic flow and congestion and
  • Providing local employment.

Residents see top priorities for Council to focus on over the next four years as:

  • Improved traffic management / flow / road infrastructure
  • Maintenance of local roads to cope with increased traffic and
  • Ensuring infrastructure keeps up with the growing community and the airport

 Ironcially, the priorities from 2015 have not changed. It’s time to change.

We need Council to listen to the people and address the issues that matter.

 Send a clear message, their vision does not match the priorities outlined by the people.

 With the projected growth, it’s critical that we deliver on the priorities outlined by the residents.

 Greater Western Sydney

 Future plans must include any savings to be redistributed back to Rates.

Financial Position Summary

Council projected a balanced budget in the adoption of the 2016-17 Operational Plan. The actual cumulative result for the year as at June 2017 after allowing for proposed Reserve allocations is a favourable surplus of $195,574.

The favourable 2016-17 end of year result has also provided the Council with capacity to allocate additional funds to the ICT Reserve ($300,000) to enable technology improvements to continue, Major Projects Reserve ($1,000,000) to advance design and development work and a further transfer to Reserve ($1,805,083) to ensure that sufficient capacity is established for 2017-18 to fund current and emerging priorities.

The variations in the final quarter of 2016-17 were mainly favourable to budget, including additional rates income ($518,888) and Roads Maintenance Fees and Charges ($350,314), savings in Light Vehicle Fleet Changeover ($317,216), Roads and Drainage Maintenance ($486,054) and net employee costs ($736,584). These positive variations were partly offset by additional expenditure in Building Maintenance and Operations ($249,031) and a reduction in the predicted reimbursement from the NSW Rural Fire Fighting Fund ($324,574) which is based on actual costs for the year.

The financial strategies developed over the past two years rely not just on the 2016-17 Special Rate Variation (SRV), but also on reform within the organisation’s processes, systems, procedures, culture and structure.  Reform in these areas has already commenced and will continue over the next 2-3 years.  The organisation aims to match the funds from the 2016-17 SRV with savings from better ways of doing things, harnessing technology improvements, implementing new systems and reviewing service delivery.  These savings will provide the capacity to continue to service our growing City ensuring the 2016-17 SRV funds are directed towards the City shaping and future-proofing priorities. As at 30 June 2017 the total productivity initiatives savings achieved were $2,426,523 which exceeded our target of $2,143,964 by $282,559.

This final review for 2016-17 highlights the strengthening financial sustainability that underpins Council’s Fit for the Future status and has been foreshadowed in the Long Term Financial Plan in recent years. Continued commitment to the strategies endorsed by the Financial Capacity Review and the 2016-17 Special Rate Variation (SRV) will continue to reinforce Council’s financial sustainability and Regional City role.

Budget Position

Original Budget Position 0
September Quarter Variations 60.5
December Quarter Variations 27.3
March Quarter Variations 61.7
June Quarter Variations 0
June Review Variations 46.1
Revised Surplus/(Deficit) 195.6

The predicted cumulative result for the year as at June 2017 is a favourable surplus of $195,574 after the recommended variations for the final quarter. Commentary is provided below on some of the more significant issues in the review (F= Favourable, U= Unfavourable, A= Allocation) with further details together with all proposed variations, variations with no impact on available funds, revotes, and reserve movements detailed in the Organisational Performance Report – June 2017.

Rates Income $518,888 F (0.4%)

Additional rates income was partly due to a delay in receiving supplementary valuations in early 2017 as the Valuer General was required to revalue all NSW land for the planned Fire & Emergency Services Levy. This caused a delay with providing supplementary valuations to Council for properties registered between November 2016 and March 2017, which made it difficult to ascertain which properties would be rated in 2016-17 financial year. Additional income was also partly due to additional subdivisions being registered ahead of forecasts. This additional income was predicted to be received in future years of Council’s LTFP and as such does not substantially increase Council’s financial capacity in future years.

Transfer to Financial Management Reserve $1,805,083 A

The development of the annual budget each year requires a number of assumptions to be made in relation to both expenditure and income that are dependent on factors that are outside Council’s control. To safeguard against movements in these assumptions and forecasts during 2017-18 and also to provide capacity to respond to additional calls on Council funds it is proposed that $1,805,083 be transferred to Council’s Financial Management Reserve.  In considering this provision Council has identified that $100,000 of this allocation be used in 2017-18 to support, as a sponsor, the Australian Matildas Football match against Brazil being held at Penrith Stadium in September.  In addition further allocation of these funds to specific projects was considered by a recent Finance & Economics Opportunities Working Party, and once finalised will be included for consideration as part of the September Review of the 2017-18 Operational Plan.

Transfer to Major Projects Reserve $1,000,000 A

Council’s Long Term Financial Plan (LTFP) identified the need to establish a Major Projects Reserve to support investment in major Regional City Infrastructure as our City grows. This Reserve will provide capacity for Council to deliver or contribute towards the delivery of the infrastructure our City needs into the future and could include multi-deck carparks, community facilities, open space improvements, and sporting facilities.  This Reserve was established in 2015-16 with initial funding of $2,500,000 with an allocation in September 2017 taking the balance to $3,500,000. This additional end of year allocation, which is proposed to be nominally allocated to the planned Tench Reserve upgrades, now brings the balance to $4,500,000.

Transfer to ICT Reserve $300,000 A

Council has undertaken a number of Information Technology projects and upgrades under the ICT Strategy. A transfer of $300,000 to Reserve is proposed in the June Quarterly Review to enable technology improvements to continue in line with Council’s ICT Strategy/Investment Plan.


The predicted end of year result is an excellent outcome and reflects the strong financial management of Council. The discipline and control Council has shown in the development and monitoring of the 2016-17 Operational Plan has ensured that Council has been able to accommodate priorities as they have emerged during the year and has also provided capacity to respond to future challenges through allocations to Reserves.

The Financial Capacity Review resulted in the development of a number of strategies and initiatives with funding to be provided by a combination of cost saving efficiencies, productivity improvements, and the Special Rate Variation (SRV) for four years commencing 2016-17 and the renewal of the AREAS SRV (expiring in June 2016) which have been incorporated in the 2016-17 Operational Plan. When combined with the final budget position as at June 2017 including allocations to Reserve these strategies will ensure that Council has the capacity and financial flexibility to respond to emerging challenges. Council’s strategies also ensure we are well placed to maintain our long term financial sustainability as we grow into our Regional City role, cater for the increased populations within both the LGA and the regional catchment that we service and address the increasing demands and expectations of our Community.

Making Penrith the number one place to live, work and play

I will take action and get results

Re-Visioning Penrith as a city, council actually needs to have the autonomy and political maturity to transition towards a more liveable city.

Local council need to focus on providing infrastructure and services to meet the material and social needs of all residents’ not just future ones.

The Urban Growth Management in Penrith Stage 2 Report clearly identifies the following:

Penrith assets have been defined as:

  • Safe community
  • Beautiful Natural environment
  • Available land
  • Major Roads
  • Train stations

Penrith Challenges have been defined as:

  • City Structure
  • Dispersed communities with little sense of belonging

From a civic sense of place

  • Fragmentation of the urban fabric with disconnections from river and important infrastructure
  • Economic, social and environmental impacts of low density and car based living.
  • Dispersed nature of Employment centres and long distance and lack of reliable connections between main attractions, CBD, River, hospital, Panthers Facilities.
  • Lack of evening economy and nightlife with no significant retail and dining alternative to Westfield
  • Pl18 Leisure and lifestyle offering, the ability to create a hub for people to spend time within the Penrith economy rather than the airport


Our Priorities

It’s time for a new focus, our priority needs to be local issues and we need to work hard to deliver services and outcomes that make Penrith the best place to live work and play Now and in the future.

Planning to improve the local economy

To address the lack of evening economy, could include creating a dining precinct along the full length of High Street.

Penrith Council needs to review, promote and facilitate ways in which to make it easier for businesses, to accommodate outdoor seating for dining along High Street, unless they remove barriers, it will never be able to develop to its full potential as one the unique places that could put Penrith on the map.

We don’t need developers to do this, actions can happen now!




Building a sustainable local economy will enable Penrith to fulfil its full potential.

It’s time for new ideas.

River Precinct can be better accessed by more  Local transport Options.

So many people would love to visit this beautiful area, unfortunately unless you have a car, you are very limited in accessing this location.  Shuttle Bus services from private operators picking up from the station and Panthers could quite easily build to a great service that will boost our local economy. Or Even a Bike Hire Company, so people can access the area, similar to what is available on the SouthBank in Brisbane.

Nepean River image sketch                               bike hire


Community Facilities

Improve the Quality of neighbourhood design to foster healthy and safe communities

Create places here people of all ages can feel safe and take advantage of the accessibility to facilities and services.

There needs to be an immediate updating on all aging facilities, it’s not fair that residents in the older suburbs have been ignored. We deserve better, some of the facilities need urgent attention. They are the hub that creates and fosters healthy and safe communities.




Council need to create places here people of all ages can feel safe and take advantage of the accessibility to facilities and services.

These spaces engender social interaction, a sense of place and response to community needs.

 We are committed to improving our community and dedicated to progress.



Transportation Infrastructure

Transport is the key into helping facilitate major regeneration of Penrith. Therefore, to underpin the regeneration we need a dynamic and highly transient transport system.

The purpose of the Penrith transport system needs to

  • Move people and goods
  • Give people choices of transport methods
  • Support economic, social and cultural activity.

We need to harness community assets to improve transport connectivity. Getting around the city quickly and efficiently will provide benefit directly and indirectly to the majority of people who live, work and play in Penrith.

The Current council are working on the principle, if you live in the city you’ll have everything you need close to hand. What about the people who live in the suburbs, don’t they matter?

Council need to stop being City Centre centric.   Start putting in the infrastructure to get people to Penrith not the other way around.

Regional Roads

Any upgrade of Mulgoa Road or Northern Road will only benefit residents, if they area widened to include new lanes that are for express Bus lanes.

Overall, to ease congestion, there needs to be a reduction in the number of cars on the road. The age old view of increasing the number of carparks only entices more cars onto our already congested roads.

Council needs to provide people a real alternative than using cars to get around Penrith. People need to be able to access frequent and express public transport options.

Nothing increases the value of properties more than an efficient public transport system.




At a Federal level there needs to be a National Fund to improve public transport infrastructure.


Local bus shelters

We need to set our standards higher, Bus stop infrastructure has a strong influence on the way in which people experience the bus system, Bus stops can provide access, information and protection from the elements. A poor quality bus stop can make using the bus system very difficult, unpleasant or impossible.

As outlined in the WSPTUs “Funding Bus stop infrastructure” The responsibility for providing bus stop infrastructure largely falls to local Government. This creates a tricky problem because the NSW state Government is now almost responsible for planning and funding the bus system and the Federal Disability legislation is the driver to ensure the bus system is made accessible.

This split of responsibilities, plus the lower priority for funding via Penrith council makes the provision of quality bus infrastructure problematic.

Funding should be at a Federal level as part of an Infrastructure fund set up to ensure that State and local levels of Governments can access block funding on application.

We need to be able have all major bus shelters provided at least every 800 metres.

Using solar lighting technology, the funding of these structures could also be supported in part by paid advertising.




How we play a part in Planning

As a resident I expect to have leadership from Penrith Council, and expect them to advocate, facilitate and deliver services.

What role can we actually have in the planning process to set their priorities?

Every four years the Council sends out a survey to ask interested residents to have their say, in theory this sets the planning and priorities for the next four years.

Reading the Resourcing Strategy it shows that in 2012 Council embarked on an engagement program, people who live and work in Penrith told Council what was most important to them and what they wanted Council to work on.

  • Improve Access to local jobs
  • Manage Future Growth so that the services people need are provided as the population grows.
  • Improve the roads and public transport system
  • Create clean and safe public spaces
  • Encourage Health and wellbeing in the community and help Penrith stay safe

The elected councillors decided the priorities to be:

  • Focus on investment and growth in the City’s key centres
  • Creating opportunities for activities on and around Nepean River
  • Work with the State Government to implement the Penrith Lakes Parklands and unlock the development potential of Penrith Lakes.

(PCC 2016 resource strategy page.12)

Except, to date they haven’t delivered on what the community wanted them to, that is because they chose to ignore what the community wanted. This view is substantiated by the comments outlined in the 2016 Council Resourcing Strategy.

So why bother asking the Community to have their say, if they totally ignore the responses?

Is it because they didn’t like what the community wanted, or because as they clearly state in the Penrith City Council Resourcing Strategy 2016 (p.4) they can’t deliver on everything, so it looks like they totally ignored what the community wanted and decided to consult with a Penrith Community Panel to work out what services and facilities we need in Penrith.

The cynical side of me thinks, why ask people what they want, with no intention of ever trying to deliver or is it because the residents didn’t give the answers the council wanted to hear, so they chose to ignore what people said.

It is clear that community and councillors set priorities for the services that Council delivers

We have to hold the Council to account. If they ask us what we want, they have an obligation to deliver our priorities.


Urban Development

Implications of High Density housing in Penrith – extract from Urban Growth report

Simply building smaller high density housing does not necessarily mean small households will live in it.

Penrith as a regional city will involve the development of a substantial higher density residential sector over the next thirty years of a scale not yet experienced in the city.

The most obvious impact of much higher density housing market would be the substantial increase in the private rental market in the city and that will impact the social outcomes that flow from the increase.

The higher density proposals would shift the social profile of the city, it would move it substantially away from its current family orientated profile.

Higher density would also have substantial implications for the provision of services and amenities for the new population in these areas.

There are some arguments that can be put forward that suggest increased high density housing would not be beneficial over the long run for the city.

  • This type of housing is typified by a lower income population driven by high proportion of rental property in higher density markets.
  • The logical outcome of current and proposed higher density planning policies may well create concentrations of relative disadvantaged.
  • In effect the social profile of the City would become deeply entrenched with the high density axis contrasting to the low density suburbs beyond, and with it, a similarly entrenched social division.

Flexible suburbs in Penrith – extract from Grattan Report

If today’s suburbs are to be tomorrow’s suburbs too, then they will need to be flexible enough to change with the people that live in them.

There is agreement that renewal is essential to keep any city vital, aging buildings will be renovated, or replaced, new types of shops and enterprises that supersede businesses and then the changing of one generation residents to the next. If we don’t make our neighbourhoods flexible then renewal cannot happen, this can damage suburbs and city’s as a whole.

  • Standards for connectivity must be based on how long it takes residents to get to a mix of jobs, shops and services.
  • Private developers and public planners have concentrated on meeting the needs of the first generation of residents in greenfield areas. However, attention also needs to be focused on the future.
  • Town centres that can grow and change, surrounded by a variety of buildings that face the street.
  • Broader, mixed-use zones, with regular reviews of zoning across the city.


Grattan Institution – 167 Tomorrows suburbs 2012, building flexible neighbourhoods

After reading the report from the Grattan institute, it got me thinking about what the people of Penrith told the Council what they wanted them to work on.

Looking at how we are building new suburbs we are laying the ground work for the future shape of the city as a whole and I don’t think they have paid attention to what the people wanted back in 2012.

We need new suburbs to be more flexible, efficient which will make our cities more liveable over time.

The current crop of developers have little incentives to consider adaptability, it appears that they are only focused on meeting the immediate needs and preferences of new suburbs of the first residents and not what people may need as the population grows.

The Grattan Report highlights how small developers operate on tight margins, they need to complete and sell projects quickly and are not concerned about what happens in the future.

If you relate to all the new apartments that have been approved by council, they have failed to deliver what the people told them what was in important.

In other words, developer’s primary concerns is an area’s first generation of residents. Council Planning needs to think about the future, not just the quick sale of land and pander to the developer’s primary concern which is an area’s first generation of residents.

Homebuyers tend to focus on affordable housing (upfront costs), rather than affordable living (ongoing long term costs) Council need to consider this.

In New Greenfields areas Governments are the ones that have the capacity to plan for the future. They are focused on the here and now (the current generation) not future generations.

We need all new suburbs to meet the needs of future residents, if a suburb can adapt successfully to demographic shifts through alterations in land use, in building form and function and so on. Then it is more likely to be adaptable of other types of change as well.

Flexibility is essential, failure to adopt can be severe, and adaptation is harder in Greenfields suburbs than it was in older parts of the city.

Provide opportunities to improve Green fields adaptability

Consider regulatory issues such as, zoning rules and covenants that reduces flexibility and the capacity to meet changing needs.


Connectivity as a driver of adaptation

Adaptation is more likely to occur in suburbs that provide residents which access to a rich mix of transport, goods and services

Research shows that most people benefit from a basic level of connectivity, being able to travel to at least a small number of goods, services and jobs in a reasonable amount of time.

They also acknowledge that poor connectivity can jeopardise people’s wellbeing, health and social contact

Long Commutes on congested roads or crowded public transport can increase stress and limit the amount of time spent with family and friends.

Currently the fixation is on proximity – to Public transport stops or to town centres

The should focus on how long people have to spend to get where they need to go (including by car)

Planning guidelines

95% of new residential land should be within 400m of safe walking distance of a public transport stop.

Medical, educational, community facilities should be 200 metres for a stop

They don’t actually state how often services should run or how quickly they can transport residents to workplaces or other destinations.


Extract from the Urban Growth Management in Penrith Stage 2 Report

Highlights the current role of the older suburbs and the solution to how planning can be done better, the highlighted paragraphs clearly show that high density housing does not necessarily mean good outcomes for Penrith

An active spatial information system would be an essential component of the more intensive local planning policy suggested in the report below.  Council is therefore recommended to explore the options of progressively developing a spatial residential land use information system of this kind that can be used to monitor renewal activity.

Council should consider developing a strategy for identifying stock that is likely to need replacing, assessing the timescales in which this will occur and providing a planning framework for coordinated and managed renewal might be well worth pursuing.

We have sought to establish the likely impacts of renewal in these older suburbs, Specifically South Penrith and Oxley Park, by modelling the social and urban design outcomes of current patterns of renewal in these areas. The process of change and adaptation reflects the age of these suburbs, and in particular the way they are moving towards the end of their initial life cycle as the original population ages and is being replaced by a more diverse community and where the housing stock is being replaced or restructured into new, and again, more diverse forms of housing. It is in these communities that the new wave of urban renewal is taking place. While this has been going on for some time, assisted by the current zoning framework in some places, it is now gathering pace. Under the proposals canvassed as part of the new Sydney Metropolitan Strategy, it is these suburbs that will be targeted for an unprecedented increase in densities. It is therefore crucial Council is in a position to both understand what is happening here and also to develop appropriate policies to best manage the pressure for redevelopment.

As we pointed out in the earlier Penrith Urban Growth Management Report, these suburbs provide housing for an increasingly diverse community through a number of housing sub-markets. The first is an older mature population, some of whom have been resident here for many years most of whom own their properties outright. Some have no doubt lived in these suburbs since they were first constructed in the inter- and immediate post war period.

The fact that there were relatively few children in this type of suburb reflects the aging nature of the population. Older children moving to their own homes are more likely to move to other suburbs to have their families or to other locations to pursue employment or educational opportunities elsewhere. There is, therefore, an emerging cohort of in situ ‘empty nesters’.

A second market is the lower cost rental market. Up to a third of the housing is rented from a private landlord, a high proportion compared to elsewhere in Penrith. This market provides an affordable housing option for those either too poor to buy or households in the early stages of their life cycle. While the higher than average proportions of single persons, couple households and low income households in these areas is no doubt a refection of the older population noted above, it is also an outcome of the attraction of the rental housing here to younger adults. This is an important market for many in Penrith and much of this market is to be found in the walk-up blocks of flats that have been built on redevelopment sites in these suburbs.

Nevertheless, there is substantial rental house sector as well, which maybe associated with the poorer quality housing stock.

A third market focuses on affordable houses for lower to moderate income home buyers.

Penrith is one of the more affordable housing markets in Sydney, and this stock provides opportunities for those excluded on price grounds from other areas, both within Penrith and beyond, to afford home ownership. This appears to be in part associated with the new medium density villa/town house market. However, the proportion in this category remains relatively low at present.

These areas therefore provide a range of diverse housing opportunities for a diverse community, which differentiates it from the newer, more family orientated suburbs. This, in itself, is a positive feature and suggests more balanced community outcomes. However, the fact that families, while by no means missing from these areas, form a below average proportion of the housing market, indicates that the housing market in these older suburbs may be becoming rather polarised, between the ‘remnant’ original population, now in retirement, and the more newly arrived, and probably more mobile, younger population.

The future of the older suburbs without infill renewal

As they stand, without further infill renewal, the most likely scenario for the older suburbs will be a gradual process of revaluation and ‘in situ’ renewal as the ageing housing stock is replaced by ‘knock down’ redevelopment of larger single houses built mainly for individual families. It is possible that the larger blocks of land available in these areas would prove very attractive to higher income families looking for both space and higher quality street scapes than are currently being produced in new urban development at much higher densities on the urban fringe.

Certainly, there is a potential for revitalising these areas for middle and even higher income housing through in-situ replacement where plots are suitable for households who put a premium on space and external amenity. The maturity of these suburbs would also help this process. An outcome, perhaps the suburban equivalent to inner city gentrification, might well be possible, so long as new high density infill development is controlled, which would act as a deterrent for such households.

This option is one that Council should explore. Faced with a polarising city structure, encouraging medium to high income established home owners (of the kind currently moving to the new urban fringe) to return to the older suburbs through controlling uncoordinated higher density infill might be a viable alternative to higher density renewal. It would help redress the spatial divide growing across the city and encourage further economic growth in these areas in the provision services for a higher income population.

Just as importantly, Council must now consider what the impacts on Penrith’s population will be of the development of the major new urban release areas in Bringelly and Riverstone. If successful, these areas will progressively attract medium and higher income households from across Western Sydney to migrate there over the next thirty years, in much the same way as the new suburbs being currently developed are doing. As a consequence, much of the demand for Penrith’s new higher density housing may be deflected to these new growth centres.

The re-casting of Penrith’s older and more spacious suburbs for this population might be a way of countering this inevitable process and retain economic growth in suburbs that at present are slowly declining in social status.

The likely future role of the older suburbs with higher density renewal

Modelling change in housing markets is a speculative exercise at best. Nevertheless, the projections of the social outcomes of current trends in redevelopment and renewal, as determined by the prevailing zoning framework for these older areas, indicates the kind of change that can be expected, if nothing intervenes to challenge prevailing market trends.

The most obvious likely impact is that the predicted increase in higher density housing (in the cases study areas reviewed here, dual occupancy and villa/town houses developments) will lead to a community more likely to comprise of private renters and have a high proportion of younger, more mobile households, although the proportion of lone parent households is also predicted to increase substantially. These households will mainly be on medium to low incomes. The housing market processes that generate this kind of social profile are an outcome of the role of the rental investment market in driving housing development in these areas.

In the recent past, much of the new housing produced in redevelopment sites has been bought by investors and therefore ends up in the rental market. The older and relatively cheaper house property is also attractive to investors looking for a cheap way to access capital gains. It should be stressed that this rental market is not comparable to the DINKs and Yuppie rental sectors in downtown Sydney or other waterside locations. The rental community in Penrith is not made up of young more educated ‘creative’ classes, but represent a cohort of suburban low income households, many of whom may be struggling economically. This reflects the character of Penrith in the regional housing market.

Nevertheless, there is also an active home ownership market and it this component of the market that offers an opportunity for these areas to broaden their social profile, especially if these new home buyers, many of whom will be younger people, remain in the area as they enter the child rearing stage of their life cycle.

A proportion of the Urban Growth Management in Penrith Stage 2 Report City Futures Research Centre/Faculty of the Built Environment UNSW 154

Sale of higher density housing may also be going to the large number of empty nester identified as already living in the Penrith.

It is the balance between these two markets that holds the key to the future of these older areas of Penrith under urban renewal pressure. Too much rental, and there is a danger that some of these higher density areas will spiral into places of higher socioeconomic disadvantage, especially those parts more distant from good transport and services where values will lowest. We have seen this happen in other parts of Western Sydney where high density redevelopment has proceeded in an unmanaged and uncoordinated manner, even around transport nodes.

A policy of encouraging a higher degree of home ownership in this new high density stock needs to developed, although this will not be easy given the relative affordability of the low density housing stock in the area. Ensuring high quality urban design and high neighbourhood amenity will be part of this strategy. However, it has to be stated that where exactly the demand for a larger higher density sector will come from in future years needs to be questioned. If renewal is to be is investor driven, then precisely where the numbers of rental households will come from will need to be considered, especially when Penrith will be competing for this population with higher density developments in Blacktown and the Riverstone and Bringelly release areas.

The same issue applies if the market is to be more reliant on home buyers to generate development. In addition, recent research from Melbourne11 suggests there is no simple correlation between smaller dwellings and the demand from the predicted growth of smaller households.

Many older ‘empty nesters’ will prefer to remain in their family home. Much of the new higher density stock is only of two bedrooms, too small to provide additional space for visiting family for older people, or additional space for home offices or guest rooms for others. Simply building smaller high density housing does not necessarily mean small households will be there to live in it.

Social outcomes under alternative planning policies

Penrith has been designated a potential ‘Regional City’ under the proposals being canvassed for the new Sydney Metropolitan Strategy, although it has currently been classified as a ‘Major Centre’ in its present form. Developing Penrith as a Regional City will involve the development of a substantial higher density residential sector over the next thirty years of a scale not yet experienced in the City.

Under these proposals, central Penrith can expect to have clusters of high density residential buildings of up to 20 storeys with an average of 4 storeys in areas immediately surrounding the centre. Elsewhere, there will be a series of higher density Town Centres situated around the rail stations, presumably on the line towards Sydney, each accommodating approximately 4,000 dwellings in high density developments of up to 6 storeys. Elsewhere, a range of Villages and smaller Neighbourhood centres with a mix of 4 story walk-up flats, top-shop flats and villa/town house development will be scattered across the urban area.

What would these proposals mean for the residential and social structure of Penrith? There would certainly be a major change in the urban built form of the City, and a major realignment of the housing market towards higher density housing and units. A full scale evaluation of the physical and social impacts of these proposals on Penrith is outside the scope of this project. However, some idea of what might happen, given prevailing market outcomes, can be deduced from the foregoing analysis.

Given prevailing trends, and assuming the full development of the proposals for a much higher density housing market in Penrith, the most obvious impact, on current trends, would be for a substantial increase in the private rental market in the City, with the associated social outcomes that would flow from this:

Larger numbers of lower income, younger, childless households. Perhaps split between older ‘empty nesters’ as well as more mobile younger people. Lone parent families would also find this form of accommodation attractive due to its affordability.

On the other hand, couple families, the ‘traditional’ Penrith household type, would remain embedded in the low density suburbs.

Older households downsizing from the residential suburbs would also be expected to be accommodated in this stock. Areas designated for Village or Neighbourhood status, where medium density villa and town house redevelopment predominates, would attract a more middle income population, perhaps with greater numbers of young families with children, especially single parent families, but would also be attractive to older households downsizing from house property. Again, the proportion renting would be high, on current market trends. Presumably family centred housing would remain concentrated in the suburbs of low density houses further away from the central high density axis along the rail and main road lines

The resulting geographical division of Penrith into social zones defined by housing density would be a continuation of the trends already apparent in the City from the analysis presented in the Penrith Urban Growth Management Report. However, the proposals would shift the social profile of the City substantially away for its current family orientated profile, given current trends in the market. This would have substantial implications for the provision of services and amenities for the new population in these areas. In effect the social profile of the City would become deeply entrenched with the high density axis contrasting to the low density suburbs beyond, and with it, a similarly entrenched social division.

Is a polarised Penrith City a problem?

Why should it matter is Penrith emerges as a City polarised into high rise core area comprising the young, the single, lone parents and childless mobile renters together with downshifting older people, contrasting to low density suburbs for couple and their children? This is, after all, what is emerging already. There are several arguments that can be put forward that suggests such a scenario would not be beneficial over the long run for the City.

Firstly, the demographic polarisation in household type would almost certainly be associated with an economic polarisation, with the higher density core being typified by a lower income population, in per household terms, characterised by lower occupational skills, higher propensity towards

unemployment, higher proportions not economically active, and so on. Again, this is driven by the high proportion of rental property in the higher density market, and The Urban Growth Management in Penrith Stage 2 Report City Futures Research Centre/Faculty of the Built Environment UNSW 156.

The fact that most high density stock accommodates smaller households where single incomes are much more common. There is already evidence that in some of the areas where walk up flats are concentrated a low income and disadvantaged housing sector is developing, for example, in parts of St Marys and around Werrington station. Unless the nature of the demand for such accommodation changes, there is every reason to believe that at least a proportion of the new high density development will pass rapidly into this more marginalised rental market.

While it provide a source of more affordable housing for these high needs groups, the wisdom of allowing concentrations of this type of property to develop further should be questioned. The logical outcome of current and proposed higher density planning policies therefore may well be the creation of concentrations of relative disadvantage in less attractively located or poorly designed high density privately rented enclaves. This needs to be recognised and managed.

Secondly, there is a growing debate about the social sustainability of new development. Again, much rhetoric from State government and the development industry has emerged concerning the need to create balanced and vibrant communities as elements in what might constitute a sustainable community. Building a City split into two increasing polarised groups, defined by the type of property they inhabit, clearly runs counter to such propositions. Balanced communities are by definition diverse communities. Diverse communities, and the necessary precursor, a diverse housing stock, are better able to change to meet future changing circumstances, a critique currently levelled at the ‘monocultural’ new suburbs in Sydney, for example in Glenmore Park, that have developed comprising almost entirely of large family housing. However, the likely outcomes of the renewal of older suburbs predicted in this report will not necessarily create particularly balanced communities (although they will be certainly more diverse socially than the new low density suburbs).

The segregation of social and age groups spatially by the housing market is also a potential problem in terms of community cohesion. If older people wish to find a smaller home more suited to their needs in later life, they will be forced to move to a new community to do so. In doing so, they leave their establish links and perhaps their children who may be setting up their families in the low density suburbs. Families often rely on grandparents to cover for child care and other support.

Building a City split by age will make such mutual support much more difficult. Similarly, if older children wish to leave a suburban home, then the only option will be to move into the higher density housing in a different part of the city, again stretching mutual support links and breaking community ties.

Strong and vibrant local communities are not best served by such a policy. Instead, it could be argued that higher density housing should be encouraged across the urban area, in small and diffused sites, in order to provide a mix of housing opportunities for a range of households.

In this way, the social polarisation currently being built into the urban structure, and on current trends more likely under the proposed policies of the Metropolitan Strategy, might be avoided.

This does not preclude higher density core areas, but it does mean that a much broader view of where housing density should be increased needs to be developed, but avoiding the poor urban design outcomes associated with earlier forms of dual occupancy or villa and flat development.

To an extent, the ‘village’ and neighbourhood’ components of Urban Growth Management in Penrith Stage 2 Report City Futures Research Centre/Faculty of the Built Environment UNSW 157,

The Metropolitan Strategy might achieve this. But again, this presupposes nodal concentrations rather that a broader spread of higher density housing. The nodal logic rests on the notion that there is a direct relationship between high density housing and public transport use. However, this assumption has yet to be tested in the Sydney suburban context, and remains a matter of belief, not fact.

What policies might make a difference?

The key question is whether such a polarised scenario would actually develop. Several things might intervene to change the outcomes. First, the whole renewal and densification policy promoted by current Metropolitan Strategy proposals is to be driven solely by market forces. In the relatively lower value Penrith housing market, there must be some doubt as to whether such forces currently exist to drive the process. Moreover, housing markets are subject to considerable fluctuation, with booms followed by slumps the normal pattern. The current slump in investor activity in the Sydney housing market suggests that such changes may take a long time to work their way through he older suburbs, or, indeed, may never fully occur. Whether the NSW residential investor market will rebound after this current slump, and in what way, remains to be seen. But the main point here is that, as we have argued above, the higher density market is investor driven. If there is a long term withdrawal of investors in the kind of property that will be developed in Penrith, then the planning targets set for the City will not be forthcoming. With so much of new higher density output dependent on investors to ensure the stock is built, this may prove to be a major impediment to achieving these goals.

Moreover, current zoning regulations allow higher density housing across some of the older suburban areas that are some distance from a rail station. Oxley Park provides evidence of a lack of coordinated renewal activity of this kind permitted within broad brush zoning, but with no obvious locational focus on public transport nodes, as envisaged in the Metropolitan Strategy proposals.

This suggests that current zoning needs to be substantially reviewed and revised if more targeted and concentrated redevelopment is required. While the reliance on the market to drive these changes is one area that will add a large degree of uncertainty to the outcomes from renewal, it could be argued that active intervention to avert the possibility of polarisation might also act to change the outcome predicted above. Council should consider how Urban Renewal Master Plans to replace current broad brush residential zoning can be developed for suburbs subject to renewal which would be underpinned by social sustainability principles. Best practice here would suggest these Master Plans would be a joint outcome of Council and community consultation, rather than left to the private sector to determine outcomes which may well override social sustainability concerns.

Importantly, Council will need to take a positive and active lead in this process if the negative aspects of the NIMBY syndrome form the communities involved are not to prevail. A clear vision of the outcomes Council expects from renewal would be a critical component of this process. After all, Council will be faced with managing the long term consequences of this process, so it would be better to be in control of the outcomes, rather than accept what the market delivers.

Urban Growth Management in Penrith Stage 2 Report City Futures Research Centre/Faculty of the Built Environment UNSW 158

Poor urban design outcomes are also a current concern. Council may need to become more proscriptive in terms of the acceptable forms of redevelopment that are permitted to ensure the poor quality renewal of recent years is studiously avoided. Unfortunately, the nature of the development industry will not necessarily assist this process, given the status of the Penrith housing market. Only recently, one of Sydney’s most prominent residential developers was reported to have noted that it would be difficult to produce high quality high density buildings in lower value suburban locations. If this is so, then Council will need to be very careful about what kinds of development it allows to take place. Once built, these developments will determine the social outcomes in the suburbs subject to renewal and densification for many decades.

A key issue here is the nature of renewal and land subdivision patterns. Redevelopment on single blocks has resulted in poor urban design outcomes in the past, especially where developers have crammed blocks to achieve the maximum permitted densities. If the mistakes of such development are to be avoided, policies that actively encourage the assembly of several adjacent blocks to enable well designed and diverse housing design outcomes need to be developed. All these issues imply a higher level of planning intervention and guidance in the market than has been the case hitherto. Current broad brush zoning for higher density, which appears to have been driven as much by the location of larger residential plots across the City than by a policy to actively manage high density housing locations, will need to be reviewed.

A more assertive approach to managing renewal will be needed to ensure an appropriate mix of dwelling types with high quality design and providing appropriate housing for a mix of social groups in the most optimum locations is achieved.

This will not be easy, given the nature of Penrith’s current and likely social mix and housing market. Unless there is a marked upswing in the socioeconomic profile of the City in the next thirty years (not impossible, given good economic management), then the expansion of lower value higher density housing developed on the current model in Penrith will almost inevitably result in negative social outcomes for many of the areas targeted.


Other issues

Dwelling life cycle and quality

The housing stock in these areas is currently predominantly comprised of single houses, many of which are fibro or weatherboard, but in with a substantial number built in brick. The high proportion of dwellings of weatherboard and fibro construction in Oxley Park and the northern part of South Penrith suggests there maybe issues surrounding the fact that much of this kind of dwelling stock may be nearing the end of it life cycle, particularly in terms of amenity and standard. These properties are the least likely to withstand use for many more years and may well be facing a natural process of replacement. Brick dwellings may be more durable, although again, amenity standards may be increasing inadequate for current needs. These, too, face renewal, but here there would be at least a more solid structure on which conversion, renovation and additions can be built.

Urban Growth Management in Penrith Stage 2 Report City Futures Research Centre/Faculty of the Built Environment UNSW 159

The implications of the of life cycle position of these older suburbs in terms of build type and construction is something Council may need to explore further, especially as there may be growing issues of heritage and conservation arising in the next few years, as well as pressure for renewal. This is a relatively new phenomena for Penrith, given the bulk of the stock is still likely to be less than 60 years old. Having a better understanding of the process of dwelling obsolescence and quality

(repairs and building standards) would assist in better planning for the replacement of these dwellings when it happens, rather than letting it take place ‘naturally’ by market forces alone. The latter often works to produce ad hoc, uncoordinated changes which may not work to the best interests of the area as a whole and may be incompatible with a Master Planning approach. If the Penrith Residential Strategy does not already address this issue, then Council should consider developing a strategy for identifying stock that is likely to need replacing, assessing the timescales in which this will occur and providing a planning framework for coordinated and managed renewal might be well worth pursuing.

Developing an active spatial information system

The development of a more interventionist planning policy will require an accurate and easily maintained spatial database on residential land uses in renewal areas. Without such a database, monitoring the outcomes of renewal would be extremely difficult. This is not a difficult task. The example of the drive-by land use survey included in this research provides a simple and cost-effective methodology for producing an up-to-date database of the current residential stock and land use. This should be progressively extended to all the older suburbs that are currently the focus of renewal activity. Once established, the residential land use database would be easily updated by adding data from development approvals and completions as they happen. In this way a fully comprehensive and accurate spatial database, linked to the land use cadastre, would be in place to assist in monitoring renewal, assessing social outcomes and informing on-going planning reviews.

This cadastre-based database, if linked to appropriate software, would also allow accurate visual representations to be generated of the kind included in this report to assess the urban design outcomes of any development application, situated in the context of the existing urban form and streetscape.

Such an active spatial information system would be an essential component of the more intensive local planning policy suggested above. Council is therefore recommended to explore the options of progressively developing a spatial residential land use information system of this kind that can be used to monitor renewal activity.



Kelly, J.F, and Breadon P, Mares, P., Ginnivan, L.,Jackson, P., Gregson, J. and Viney, B. (2012) Tomorrow’s suburbs Building Flexible neighbourhoods. Grattan Institute.
Randolph, B. & Holloway, D. June 2005. Urban Growth Management in Penrith Stage 2 Report, Planning for the Needs of Existing and Future Communities in Penrith. City Futures Research Centre. Faculty of the Built Environment. University of New South Wales