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Development controls critical to make Sydney suburbs livable as temperatures rise

Development controls similar to those announced for Wilton in southwest Sydney this week should be applied across the state to ensure the deadly impacts of hotter, longer heatwaves are not amplified by poor urban design. 

The Wilton Development Control Plan, announced by Planning Minister Rob Stokes, sets new standards for the size of yards, to ensure there is space for trees, and for lighter-coloured exterior building materials, among other measures. [1] 

Heatwaves are already the deadliest weather events in Australia, killing more people than bushfires, floods and all other natural disasters combined. [2] 

“We have to do much more to cut out climate pollution, but leading climate scientists say temperature increases of between 1.5 and 2 degrees are already baked in,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said. 

“That means heatwaves will kill many more people if we don’t design our homes and suburbs to cope better with extremely hot weather. 

“That means planting more trees in yards and along our streets, having wider eaves on our homes, and using lighter-coloured building materials to reflect heat.” 

The NSW Government is currently developing a Design and Place State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) that could and should set environmental standards for new developments at all scales, from individual building level to entire precincts.  The move has angered the developer lobby, which wants a minimalist approach to environmental standards. 

Total Environment Centre Director Jeff Angel said: “Will urban developers act on climate? Not likely if their opposition to cool roofs and trees in backyards is any guide. 

“The minister’s policy for Wilton shows why it's so important the environmental standards in the new Place and Design SEPP are mandatory and lock in action to achieve net-zero emissions. 

“The government should reject the short-sighted opposition of urban developers.”     


[1] ‘Blistering temperatures’: Dark roofing banned on Sydney’s urban fringe, SMH, 23-8-21 

[2] Exploring 167 years of vulnerability: An examination of extreme heat events in Australia 1844–2010, Coates, et al., 2014, Environmental Science and Policy.   


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