Planning experts are lamenting how Sydney is slowly ‘losing its edge’ as badly-planned development and fast-paced gentrification are leaving locals high and dry.

“I think it’s scandalous the lack of regard for the kind of housing and employment and cultural and entertainment needs of the people are so poorly catered for,” said University of Melbourne planning expert Kate Shaw. “We need in Australia, and in Sydney specifically, to rethink the policy and regulatory framework that governs cultural life in the city.”

According to University of Sydney cultural theorist Oliver Watts, the primary concerns of commercial interests that look to get as much value out of the land are part of the problem, resulting in large residential and commercial developments but not much focus on rejuvenating the street fronts.

“You end up having a city with no life in it,” Watts said.

He also pointed out the reduced diversity that came out of a focus on fast urban renewal and gentrification.

“The risk is that local people can’t afford it, which is already happening. And I think there is a displacement,” Watts said. “We need to ask: Are these the best cities we can build? Is this the best we can do?”

Aside from good urban design, Sydney also has to focus on addressing systemic challenges that require a speedy approach to development.

“The population growth of the city is fast outstripping its supply of available housing stock,” said architectural firm Rothelowman principal Michael Banak. “In order to manage this growth in a sustainable manner, we should be promoting taller buildings, simplifying the planning process to streamline development approvals, and rewarding innovative and creative thinking through design excellence.”

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