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Increasing urban tree canopy cover and delivering green grid connections

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Planning Priority W15

The Greater Sydney Green Grid is a long-term vision for a network of high quality green spaces that connects communities to the natural landscape. It links tree-lined streets, waterways, bushland corridors, parks and open spaces to centres, public transport and public places. The Greater Sydney Green Grid builds on the District's established open space, the Regional Tracks and Trails Framework and the emerging Principal Bicycle Network.

Tree-lined streets, urban bushland and tree cover on private land form the urban tree canopy. The urban tree canopy is a form of green infrastructure that mitigates the urban heat island effect, with a 10 per cent increase in tree canopy cover reducing the land surface temperature by 1.13 degrees Celsius23. The urban tree canopy also supports cleaner air and water and provides local habitat. Trees remove fine particles from the air and help insulate against urban noise pollution, particularly along busy roads. The urban tree canopy can also help make communities more resilient, by reducing the impact of heat waves and extreme heat.

The urban tree canopy

In the Western City District, the urban tree canopy is widespread in the towns and villages of the Blue Mountains, which are close to national parks, but sparse in some urbanised areas including Prairiewood, Bonnyrigg and Green Valley. Nineteen per cent of the District's Urban Area has tree canopy cover - lower than some other Districts in Greater Sydney. The NSW Government has set a target to increase tree canopy cover across Greater Sydney to 40 per cent. Figure 29 shows tree canopy cover in the urban area in 2011.

Trees are valued by residents and contribute to the streetscapes, character and amenity of the District. As the District continues to grow and change, the urban tree canopy will come under pressure. This means that expanding the urban tree canopy in public places will become more important for supporting for sustainable and liveable neighbourhoods.

The tree canopy may be formed by a mix of native and exotic, deciduous or evergreen trees, which provide shade in summer while allowing sunlight into homes and onto roofs for solar power, particularly in winter.

Urban renewal and transformation projects will be critical to increase urban tree canopy cover. This can be complemented by other green cover, including rain gardens, green roofs and green walls. Green cover can help slow and store stormwater and improve water quality, filtering pollution before it reaches the District's waterways.

Challenges to extending the urban tree canopy in public and private areas include the lack of sufficient space within existing street corridors, and the competition with other forms of infrastructure, both above and below the ground.

Opportunities to relocate power lines underground or bundle them may be explored at a local or precinct scale, particularly in areas experiencing urban renewal, to provide space for the urban tree canopy and enhance the public domain. Extending the urban tree canopy should be balanced with the need to allow sunlight into homes and onto roofs for solar power.

Along many busy roads, where there is limited space to plant new trees, there may be opportunities to plant other forms of green ground cover, such as garden beds and hedges, that can help improve air quality.

The District's councils generally provide guidance on enhancing tree canopy and tree cover in the urban environment, and information on street trees. Some encourage permeable surfaces to allow rainwater to soak into the ground and reduce stormwater run-off, which supports the growth of canopy trees and vegetation, and reduces pollution, flooding and urban heat. Where trees are lost as a result of development, some councils have developed programs to plant replacement trees in the public realm.

The NSW Department of Planning and Environment's Apartment Design Guide and the new Greenfield Housing Code guide the requirements for landscape areas that can support the urban tree canopy. The NSW Department of Planning and Environment is preparing an urban tree canopy manual, as part of a green infrastructure policy framework, to support the expansion of the urban tree canopy.

Connecting the Greater Sydney Green Grid

Enhancing the amenity and activity within, and accessibility to, the Greater Sydney Green Grid will promote a healthier urban environment, improve community access to places for recreation and exercise, encourage social interaction, support walking and cycling connections and improve resilience.

The long-term vision for the Greater Sydney Green Grid is shown in Figure 24.

This vision will be delivered incrementally over decades, as opportunities arise and detailed plans for connections are refined. Green Grid Priority Projects have been selected to provide district-scale connections that link open space, waterways and bushland. Table 5 lists the Green Grid projects for the District.

Councils will lead the delivery of the Greater Sydney Green Grid through land use planning and infrastructure investment mechanisms such as development and land use controls, agreements for dual use of open space and recreational facilities, direct investment in open space, and other funding mechanisms such as local development contributions and voluntary planning agreements.

State, regional and district parklands and reserves form a principal element of the Greater Sydney Green Grid for both biodiversity and recreation purposes.

The NSW Government supports the delivery of regional open space and green grid connections through the Metropolitan Greenspace Program. The NSW Government also supports the delivery of regional open space using Special Infrastructure Contributions.

Transport for NSW is establishing a Principal Bicycle Network in collaboration with councils. Opportunities to integrate the Principal Bicycle Network with the Greater Sydney Green Grid will be an important part of linking centres.

In some areas, rail lines and other linear infrastructure prevent green grid connections. Where feasible, planning and investment must consider opportunities for connections across rail lines, roads and other linear infrastructure.

Table 5: Western City District Green Grid priorities

Priority corridors
1 South Creek
Creating a continuous open space corridor along the entirety of South Creek that provides ecological protection and enhancement, better stormwater treatment and a regionally significant corridor for recreation uses. The 2017-2018 Metropolitan Greenspace Program provided $500,000 grant funding for the Governor Philip Park Upgrade, which is linked to this priority project.
2 Kemps Creek and Kemps Creek Nature Reserve
Creating a regionally significant open space corridor that provides ecological protection and enhancement, improved water quality and recreational opportunities for growing communities around Kemps Creek. While Kemps Creek Nature Reserve is not accessible to the public at present, it can form part of an important corridor with a mix of conservation areas and areas open to the public for recreation.
3 Penrith Lakes Parklands
Creating diverse open space parklands and waterway facilities around the lakes and along the Nepean River, with pedestrian and cycle links from Penrith and important links with the Great River Walk project. The 2017-2018 Metropolitan Greenspace Program provided $200,000 grant funding for Our River - Shared Path Tench Reserve, which is linked to this priority project.
4 Ropes Creek
Protecting and enhancing ecologically valued lands, improving water quality and stormwater runoff, and providing a diverse and connected sequence of recreational open spaces, walking and cycling trails,
including a green link to connect Cecil Hills, Erskine Park, Minchinbury, Mount Druitt, Oxley Park, St Marys and Ropes Crossing.
5 Scenic Southern Escarpment
Connecting the north and south open spaces at Wentworth Falls Lake, providing access to the lake with a potential for education on natural heritage and increasing access to Pitt Park sports field and the TAFE.
6 Blaxland Creek and Bushland Reserve
Protecting important future open spaces for the Western Sydney Airport Growth Area.
7 Georges River Parklands and Chipping Norton Lakes
Enhancing the Georges River as a regional open space and walking and cycling corridors, as well as protecting and enhancing the wetlands and ecological communities and improving stormwater management from surrounding development.
Projects important to the District
8 Bunbury Curran Creek and Bow Bowing Creek
Using the open space corridors along the creeks to provide open space, urban greening, active transport and stormwater treatment along the corridor.
9 Camden Park and Menangle to Georges River Open Space Corridor
Connecting a band of open space in a unique geographic setting where the Nepean and Georges River are only four kilometres apart.
10 Cranebrook to Windsor Nature Reserve Corridor
Planning for the Wianamatta Nature Reserve, Castlereagh Nature Reserve and Windsor Downs Nature Reserve to protect and enhance regionally significant ecological communities and connect them to improve resilience, while also improving the water quality and treatment of stormwater along Rickabys Creek and providing open space and links to other areas.
11 Eastern Escarpment open space and trails
Connecting a series of recreational and tourist open space facilities along the escarpment to maximise unique landscape and views. The 2017-2018 Metropolitan Greenspace Program provided $225,000 grant funding for Knapsack Reserve, which is linked to this project.
12 Five Fairfield Creeks - Clear Paddock and Cabramatta Creeks
Expanding on existing parklands to create a continuous network on high quality parkland and walking and cycling corridors, from the Western Sydney Parklands to the Georges River. The Five Fairfield Creeks are a network of creeks that flow into the Georges River at Chipping Norton Lakes. They are Cabramatta Creek, Hinchinbrook Creek, Clear Paddock Creek, Orphan School Creek and Green Valley Creek.
13 Great Western Highway Penrith to Blackheath Corridor
Creating a safe and separated east-west walking and cycling connection from Penrith to Blackheath. The 2017-2018 Metropolitan Greenspace Program provided $593,154 grant funding for the Great Blue Mountains Trail, which is linked to this project.
14 Kayess Park Open Space Corridor, Ingleburn
Creating an east-west green corridor that connects Georges River to communities at Ingleburn, Minto,
Bow Bowing and Raby.
15 Nepean Creeks - Peach Tree, Mulgoa and Surveyors Creeks
Enhancing and protecting these assets and increasing access and recreational opportunities.
16 Prospect Creek and Prospect Reservoir Parklands
Creating a continuous open space and active transport corridor from the Western Sydney Parklands and Prospect Reservoir to the Georges River.
17 Shanes Park and Wianamatta Regional Park
Protecting important areas of biodiversity that also provide connections to Ropes Creek and South Creek.
18 South Western Creeks, Badgerys and Cosgrove Creeks
Planning for open space along tributaries of South Creek that will play an important role in providing open space for growing communities in the South West Growth Area.
19 The Upper Canal
Protecting drinking water infrastructure while making use of the space along the canal as open space, urban greening and active transport corridor.
20 Warragamba Pipeline Open Space Corridor
Consider using surplus easement lands for recreational open space, urban greening and walking and cycling trails, connecting to Mulgoa, Badgerys Creek, Kemps Creek, Blaxland Creek and Horsley Park.
21 Western Sydney Parklands and Eastern Creek
Improving connectivity from adjacent Green Grid projects such as the Five Fairfield Creeks and Prospect Creek and Prospect Reservoir Parklands into the Western Sydney Parklands.

Figure 24: Western City District Green Grid opportunities.

Map of Western City District Green Grid opportunities

Source: Greater Sydney Commission, 2017, adapted from Sydney Green Grid, report published report prepared by Tyrell Studio and Office of the Government Architect for the Greater Sydney Commission.

Download this image western_figure_24.png (format PNG / 2,953 KB )

Expand urban tree canopy in the public realm.

Councils, other planning authorities and State agencies


Progressively refine the detailed design and delivery of:

a. Greater Sydney Green Grid priority corridors and projects important to the District
b. opportunities for connections that form the long-term vision of the network
c. walking and cycling links for transport as well as leisure and recreational trips.

Councils, other planning authorities and State agencies


Create Greater Sydney Green Grid connections to the Western Sydney Parklands.

Councils, other planning authorities and State agencies