Image from the Greater Sydney Commission

Like a cat on a hot tin roof, the NSW government has finally responded to the pressing issues of urban heat islands and energy efficiency by prohibiting dark coloured roofs on new developments in the suburb of Wilton in Sydney’s south-west. 

The Wilton Development Control Plan (DCP) also aims to increase canopy cover by mandating new developments of different sizes include a certain number of trees and that public spaces prioritise vegetation. 

“For the first time, homes are required to have light coloured roofs. We are determined to help to keep the temperatures of our homes and streets cooler in the summer months, especially in Sydney’s western and south-western suburbs,” said NSW Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, Rob Stokes.

“Wilton will change the face of development in…Macarthur, with improved standards for backyard sizes to facilitate trees, front gardens and lighter colour palettes to help reduce the urban heat island effect.” 

For many years, despite the benefits of lighter coloured roofs, consumers’ preferences have largely followed the trends of darker colours, adding to the sweltering effects out west when temperatures topped 50 degrees. 

The Wilton DCP was initially exhibited in 2019 and finalised in the wake of an IPCC report calling humanity’s situation “a code red” and the release of nation-leading measures in Victoria, including mandating minimum tree cover. 

Though specific requirements vary by lot size, new homes on a block larger than nine metres in width will be required to have at least one tree with a mature height of at least eight metres out front and one tree with a mature height of at least five metres in the backyard.

With over 9000 new homes planned for the area, member for Wollondilly Nathaniel Smith said, “our aim is to make Wilton more than liveable — we want it to be resilient. A place where the natural environment, new homes, and even entire neighbourhoods, complement each other.” 

Both the Greater Sydney Region Plan (GSRP) and Western City District Plan’s (WCDP) have identified a target of 40 per cent tree canopy in low density residential areas. Developments in Wilton will be required to demonstrate an alignment with this target and trees will need to be planted on all streets except for perimeter roads.

The Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC) welcomed the move to mandate light-coloured roofs and called on the NSW Government to extend the rules statewide.

WSROC president Barry Calvert said his organisation had been collaborating with scientists and local planners for a long time to develop strategies to tackle heat in Western Sydney, and lighter coloured roofs was the easiest and cheapest, but not the only measure suggested. 

“Simply choosing a light-coloured roof has no additional costs, delivers substantial benefits to household energy bills, and temperatures in suburbs more broadly,” he said

“Other measures include street orientation to capture breezes, ensuring space for tree cover, more permeable surfaces to absorb water, and better insulation.

“Addressing urban heat is a collective effort that benefits everyone. While the immediate impacts are currently more apparent in Western Sydney communities, the effects on health and liveability concern residents across Greater Sydney and beyond.”

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  1. This announcement by Rob Stokes does not actually prohibit anything- so many loopholes it hardly rates a mention. Please read more carefully. Mandating decent tree cover for all new developments would actually achieve something, but some of the new subdivisions have less than 6m2 of open space at the rear.

    1. interesting… thanks. We really appreciate the heads up here… will try to look into this soon. Quite frankly we know we need more than a tree and a few less black roofs.. even Victoria’s commitments are pretty tame.. guess they are a start though while NSW’s look like developers slapped with a feather

  2. ‘For many years, despite the benefits of lighter coloured roofs, consumers’ preferences have largely followed the trends of darker colours’

    really – consumers preferred darker roofs ?

    I didn’t know that – I grew up north with hot tin roofs and am very conscious of dark surfaces absorbing radiant heat from the sun in summer – so I was flabbergasted when I first drove through new suburbs in Western Sydney to see all dark roof tiles – I couldn’t believe it – what’s wrong with these people ?

    Now I know – consumer preferences – they thought dark roof tiles looked cool …

    guess I know who they’ll vote for then …