At the end of the Second World War the NSW state government embarked on a program to rationalise municipal administration, and introduce town planning principles for orderly post-war development, especially within the County of Cumberland.
Cumberland County (the area bounded by the Hawkesbury and Nepean rivers and the coast) in 1945 enclosed the whole Sydney conurbation and surrounding rural districts and townships. In NSW the counties are units of land management and have no political significance.
The government enacted legislation during 1945-1951 to:
- Require all municipalities to prepare ‘town plans’ for the purpose of guiding future development for a thirty year period (to 1975).
- Establish a County of Cumberland planning authority to create a County Plan and be responsible for coordinating regional planning.
- Require ‘development applications’ in all cases where property was subject to a change of use (in effect, zoning regulations),
- Amalgamate municipal councils into larger, more viable entities.
The original intentions were never fully realised. The program of municipal amalgamations was much reduced in face of resistance from local councils, although the City of Sydney did absorb some surrounding inner-city neighbours. The County of Cumberland authority was established, and produced a county plan (which we will add the Historical Atlas later), but ultimately failed and was dissolved in 1963. As far as we know most municipalities never produced their town plans. Development applications however, are with us still.
Two town plans from this period are known to have survived, for parts of the City of Sydney -
- Redfern Municipal Council had established a town planning committee by 1946 and contracted the architect and town planner Harold H Smith to create a town plan, which was completed in 1947-48.
- The City Engineer’s department of the City of Sydney undertook a town planning exercise in 1948 for the suburb of Surry Hills, which proposed to rename it as “Sunny Hills”. The planner was Bruce M McIntyre.
Each of these documents comprises maps and plans, and explanatory text, showing the existing state of the suburb, and how it was proposed to transform it into a better planned community. Research into existing conditions (such as transport routes, the condition of dwellings, population dynamics and so on), is included in the documents.
In the case of both the town plans, there is emphasis on sweeping away existing patterns of close packed and often ‘substandard’ housing, and introducing residential zones dominated by blocks of flats set in parkland. Roads and traffic flow is perhaps the other major consideration - in the case of the Sunny Hills plan almost the entire existing street plan was to be abolished and replaced.
Neither of these town plans was ever implemented. Probably the Sunny Hills plan was only ever an exercise. The Redfern plan was a casualty of the amalgamation of Redfern municipality into the City of Sydney from 1949. The City had its own planning regime which we intend to add to the Historical Atlas later.
For more reading about town planning in Sydney we recommend two books by Paul Ashton: ‘The Accidental City - planning Sydney since 1788’ (Sydney, Hale & Iremonger, 1993) and ‘Nine Planners Remember’ (Sydney City Council, 1993)
The town plan for "Sunny Hills" has been added to the Historical Atlas by kind permission from the Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW.
These two sets of plans are accessible via the links below.