Creative plans to revitalise Sydney after dark

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Shops and businesses in the city will soon be able to trade until 10pm without needing further approvals thanks to new planning changes unanimously approved by Council last night.

The City of Sydney is introducing planning reforms that will boost Sydney’s small-scale and creative economy and create more opportunities for creative and cultural activities.

Cutting red tape for small businesses and creative organisations will help the creative sector find accommodation, use spaces in different ways, and create opportunities for artists to use non-formal venues for performances. The reforms will also give businesses the opportunity to activate and diversify their activities in underused or vacant spaces.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported in February 2021 that Covid-19 restrictions significantly impacted business for 80 per cent of accommodation and food services and 70 per cent of the arts and recreation industry. The City’s reforms are an opportunity to reinvent Sydney as it recovers from the pandemic, revitalise its nightlife and increase its standing as an international city.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the reforms will help reignite our 24-hour economy.

“It is so important that we make and maintain space for artists in our cities,” the Lord Mayor said.

“By removing red tape we are making it easier for small businesses to open later, put on small-scale cultural events and set up maker spaces in the heart of our villages.

“I am also particularly excited to see the Erskineville Town Hall have the opportunity to host live music and performance.

“We are creating a city where locals and visitors alike can stumble on to diverse and exciting cultural activity in unexpected locations all around Sydney.

“This groundbreaking policy work to bolster our night time economy and support creative industries has been in development for some time, but will now help us to support our creative-led recovery from Covid-19.”

The new reforms in the open and creative city proposal apply across the whole of the City of Sydney local area. They include:

  • allowing existing shops and local businesses to extend their opening hours without a further development consent from 7am to 10pm, seven days per week (subject to meeting certain criteria)
  • allowing minimal impact small scale cultural uses without development consent to take place in existing office, business, retail and community facility buildings (subject to meeting certain criteria)
  • establishing new planning controls specifically for cultural and creative uses that need assessment through the development consent process, to provide better planning guidance and greater certainty
  • allowing creative and maker tenants and owners to operate in local centres
  • extending the current community and cultural uses for Erskineville Town Hall to
  • include entertainment uses such as theatre, cinema, music and dance.

The planning reforms have been informed by research and consultation since 2015. This included extensive consultation on a discussion paper in 2017 with strong support through community workshops and over 1,300 submissions. Proposed changes were implemented and approved by Council in June 2020.

The City placed the reforms on public exhibition during October and November 2020 and consulted widely with the community. Notification letters were sent to 121,000 owners and occupiers, emails were sent to 751 stakeholders from local community groups and bars to performance venues and business associations. Eight public agencies were consulted, including NSW Liquor and Gaming, NSW Police and the NSW Night Time Economy Taskforce. Submissions and feedback from the community helped guide some of the changes that were implemented into the plans.

The planning reforms permit business activities that will have minimal impact on residential communities. The expected impacts are in line with those in any major city with a healthy creative economy. The reforms do not permit any additional activities after 10pm.

Proposed entertainment sound planning controls will be reported to Council later in the year. These proposals establish new planning controls that enable the fair management of entertainment sound to protect live music and performance venues and the community from potential adverse impacts.

The City’s open and creative planning reforms will now be submitted to the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment for final approval.

For media enquiries or images, contact Elaine Kelly. Phone 0477 362 550 or email

For interviews with Lord Mayor Clover Moore contact Paul Mackay. Phone 0436 816 604 or email

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