The right kind of growth – creating an Aerotropolis for Sydney


The right kind of growth – creating an Aerotropolis for Sydney

Sydney’s population is projected to grow to eight million in the next 40 years however the city’s only international airport is at risk of running out of capacity by 2025. This population growth presents a major opportunity for Sydney but in order to grasp it, some fundamental changes to the city’s focus and infrastructure are necessary.

The Greater Sydney Commission’s vision for the future of the city is for a tri-centric approach in which the Greater Sydney area is rebalanced into a metropolis of three cities. Each city will be centred on metropolitan and strategic centres – to the west this strategic hub will be the new Western Sydney Airport.


What kind of airport?

That the city needs a new airport is clear and the site to the west was approved in 2016 but the choice facing city officials was what form that airport should take? Should it be a low cost hub as the UK’s London Stansted is to Heathrow or should it become Heathrow itself and offer the full service to airlines and passengers? This question was at the heart of our brief from the commission.

The three city strategy relies on development of the land around the strategic centres being maximised. Using the latest digital modelling we have been able to compare regional development opportunities arising from the possible different airport operations. Our findings indicate that to fully unlock the economic potential of Western Sydney a full service airport is preferable to a low cost hub. As such at least one of the network carriers must move to the new airport and to allow full connectivity an efficient and flexible infrastructure framework must be created.

Developing an aerotropolis

NACO has a long track record of experience in airport design having been closely involved in many aspects of the Schiphol airport project for over 25 years as well as a number of other high profile expansions and redesigns. Using this experience we have identified four key areas that have an impact on the success of an aerotropolis: Governance, Land-use planning, connectivity and economic development. Within each of these areas there are a number of further factors which must align in order to create the ideal conditions for the spatial development surrounding an airport and ultimately result in the desired aerotropolis.



These four key areas must be carefully managed for each of the three centres to ensure that development spread sufficiently – and along the desired corridors – to create the single metropolis envisaged.

Managing the sprawl

The development must, of course, also be carefully managed. Sustainability and access to nature are also important to the success of a scheme. It is essential therefore the airport and aerotropolis sit within that landscape rather than replace it. Parks and reserved natural areas must be included in the scheme.

If the findings from our study and the contributing factors are managed correctly, rebalancing Sydney in line with the three cities vision presents an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the city to fulfil its growth potential.