City of Sydney embraces outdoors in response to Covid

George St in January 2020 after the implementation of light rail. Photo: Bengt Nyman/Creative Commons 2.0.

The City of Sydney Council is accelerating long-held plans to transform the CBD into a haven for pedestrians and alfresco diners, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The relative space and safety of outdoor areas – where social distancing can be more readily practiced – is a key driver of the plans, which have been the subject of various announcements in recent days. 

This morning, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore announced that Council was creating an additional 9000 square metres of public space by extending the George Street pedestrian zone for an additional one kilometre south of its current end point. 

“By creating people-friendly spaces along the light rail corridor, we’re delivering our long-held vision of a world-class civic spine while also assisting with Covid-19 recovery,” she stated in a social media post. 

Currently, George Street is a shared pedestrian/light rail zone between Hunter Street in the north and Bathurst Street in the south; a distance of one kilometre. 

The proposal would see the zone doubled to a length of two kilometres and extended south to Rawson Place in Haymarket. 

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that construction would begin in February and conclude by June 2022, with work involving the removal of kerbs and laying of granite pavers in the road lanes. 

The existing footpaths along either side of the street would remain.

The move follows last week’s announcements by the City of Sydney and the NSW Government concerning the activation of outdoors spaces as dining precincts. 

“The pandemic has made indoor spaces less amenable to socialising so it’s time we reduce barriers to spending more social time outside,” NSW Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello said in a media statement on Thursday, announcing a taskforce to streamline existing legislation around outdoor dining. 

Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes said the multi-agency taskforce would work out how to streamline applications for venues to use their outdoor spaces in time for summer.

“Public spaces have become more important than ever before. As we head into the warmer months, we need to find ways to keep our vital hospitality sector buoyant, while also keeping people safe,” Stokes said.

“Our climate is perfect for alfresco dining, which brings life and vibrancy to our streets and public squares and gives people a reason to visit city centres.”

The Lord Mayor said: “By working with the state government to cut through remaining red tape, we will activate laneways, footpaths and high streets – realising our long-held vision of a city with boulevards of outdoor dining and live performance.”

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