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What is character?

Character is what makes a neighbourhood distinctive. It is created by a combination of the land, public and private spaces and how they interact to make a distinctive character and identity of an area.


This includes the relationship between buildings, architectural styles, subdivision patterns, activity, geography and vegetation.


We asked a panel of experts including architectural commentator Peter Maddison what defines local character and place making:




Our aim

The NSW Government aims to ensure planning to accommodate housing and job growth in new and existing communities recognises and enhances local character.


Key strategies to ensure that the places we plan today, become the much–loved places of the future include:

  • Adopting a place-based, and design-led approach which builds on the valued characteristics of existing neighbourhoods and places;
  • Recognising, and championing the important role communities play in defining existing character and shaping a desired future character for their local area; and
  • Ensuring the right tools are available in the planning system to ensure that shared visions for the future are effectively realised.

Recent changes to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Plan 1979 include the introduction of local strategic planning statements.


Under the new provisions each council will prepare a local strategic planning statement. This will set out the 20–year vision for land–use in the local area, the special character and values that are to be preserved, and how change will be managed into the future.


The statements will need to align with the regional and district plans, and the council’s own priorities in the community strategic plan it prepares under local government legislation.


Consideration of local character will be a key part of the preparation of local strategic planning statements.


On 16 January 2018, the Department released Planning System Circular PS 18–001 respecting and enhancing local character in the planning system.


The Circular describes what local character is and recognises the important role it plays in planning for development that is contextual, of its place and meets the growing needs of NSW.


Local councils and other relevant planning authorities, state agencies and communities can use the Circular for guidance about the tools available to them to incorporate consideration of local character into strategic planning and detailed planning for places.


Local character lectures

The Department is hosting a series of lectures throughout 2018 to highlight and discuss the important role local character plays in successful planning for our regions, cities and suburbs.

Exploring local character and the role of community: James Best and Lucy Cole-Edelstein


More information


Subscribe to receive local character lecture event series invitation:


Main Download List

Page last updated: 31/07/2018