Expert says more high-rise development needed

Residents are worried about more high-rise development in Seven Hills, but an expert has warned the change is inevitable.

The state government has earmarked the suburb as one of 15 priority growth areas as part of a housing affordability package. The project would see land around transport infrastructure and public housing estates rezoned “to facilitate smaller, smarter homes in appropriate locations”.

Nicole Scott, a resident of Seven Hills for 22 years, said she was in favour of development when the government provides extra funding “to take the pressure off our schools, roads, hospitals and emergency services”. But she’s worried whether that would be the case.

“Anyone in their right mind can see we just don’t have the space for much more in Seven Hills,” she said.

“Schools in the area are already over capacity and have an increase in demountable buildings because they can’t cope. I think it’s poor management, it hasn’t been thought out very well. The people who are making these decisions need to actually come out and look at the area,” she said.

SUBURB ON THE RISE: "We're so quick to house people we're just going to build concrete jungles," Seven Hills resident Nicole Scott said. Picture: Isabella Lettini

SUBURB ON THE RISE: "We're so quick to house people we're just going to build concrete jungles," Seven Hills resident Nicole Scott said. Picture: Isabella Lettini

Ms Scott said the growth in surrounding suburbs including Blacktown, Toongabbie and Pendle Hill would also put further pressure on roads in Seven Hills.

She said residents were worried about the suburb becoming a “concrete jungle” with people “shoved in like sardines”.

But according to Shane Geha, an engineer with a PhD in planning and 28 years property experience, it’s design rather than density that usually bothers people.

Dr Geha said a diverse range of well-designed development should be welcomed in all Sydney suburbs.

“We’re talking about the future, and we’re all thinking what’s best for our city and our country. We all want a better life for ourselves and our children,” he said.

“A low-density house with a backyard in 20 years, even in Seven Hills, will be virtually at the edge of being unattainable to most people.

“The average house in Sydney is already one million bucks. That market doesn’t allow young people an entry point. So having a diversity of housing...is important for all demographics.”

Dr Geha said Sydney could only become a global city with the right planning, including high-density housing around every train station.

“We have never planned. We’ve just reacted to things after the event, with the best intentions. That’s what we do. We call it planning but it’s not planning, it’s retro-fitting,” he said.

He believes state and local governments should plan for diversity of housing in new suburbs, including north-west and south-west Sydney.

Dr Geha also said a growing population would benefit current residents by raising land value, and that density improves retail and public safety.

“It’s inevitable. It’s a global reality, and it’s an economic reality,” he said.

“It’s not density that we generally object to. We object to the aesthetic. So my view is we have to have a system that much more admires than punishes good architecture, and allows it some scope to flourish.”

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