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Luke Nicholls

Principal and Partner
B. Built Environment (URP), Grad. Diploma Urban & Regional Planning, M. Environmental Law, MPIA
+61 2 8307 0121


Luke is an experienced City Planner and Executive Manager and with degrees in Built Environment, Urban & Regional Planning and a Masters in Environmental Law. He has 25 years of professional experience as a City Planner and Senior Executive in the public and private sectors in Australia. This has included leading planning for metropolitan and regional cities in NSW, preparation of integrated strategic plans, the delivery of major projects and providing advice on policy to Government.

Luke’s career has seen him lead transformation and strategy as a CEO and senior executive in both metropolitan local authorities and the private sector.

He has a strong connection and knowledge of Western Sydney planning and policy, having worked and lived in this fast growing region for the last 20 years. This has included leading city planning and environmental services for a number of local authorities, leading regional policy & advocacy through the Western Sydney regional council and more recently as a member of the Federal Infrastructure Minister’s Forum for Western Sydney Airport and through negotiation of the Western Sydney City Deal.

He is a past SGS Sydney-Canberra Practice Leader and Principal as well as being the first National CEO for the company. Luke has re-joined with a focus on engagement of SGS with the development of Western Sydney, delivery of integrated strategic planning that effectively guides the transformation of Cities and the translation of strategy into implementation and project delivery.

Luke has advised government on policy including the NSW Office of Local Government, the Ministers Advisory Panel and many individual local authorities on policy and reforms to strengthen local government.

At SGS Luke is an experienced consulting Project Director and has led SGS teams in the delivery of major projects for government in urban planning and governance, infrastructure planning and delivery and local government policy and governance.

Luke leads up SGS focus on the local government sector in NSW.

Project Experience

In regards to land use planning, Luke has experience working at a local as well as a regional scale. This has included leading the team who developed a ground breaking city-wide Local Environmental Plan for the City of Blue Mountains, which remains an important part of managing one of only two cities in the World that are within a World Heritage National Park.

For strategic planning in regional NSW, Luke led the review of the Hastings (region) Urban Growth Strategy, the guide the future growth of the regional NSW centre of Port Macquarie, as well as negotiation of major urban release and brownfield redevelopment site, infrastructure funding and development controls frameworks for the City of Port Macquarie, including planning for the development of the major regional centre.

Luke was also an SGS lead for work to inform a new Lower Hunter and Newcastle Regional Strategy. The project involved preparing a comprehensive suite of inputs to address potential alternative growth scenarios, housing demand and supply, feasibility analysis of housing, development in centres and elsewhere, assessment of employment capacity, forecasts and development settings, and a cost benefit analysis of alternative growth options. Luke has also been a member of the Comprehensive Regional Assessment team developing Regional Forestry Agreements for the Queensland Department of Natural Resources.

For strategic planning in the Sydney metropolitan area, Luke lead the preparation of strategies for the revitalisation of the Bankstown CBD, and the delivery of major transport, infrastructure, public domain and community facilities projects. This included establishment of a strategic bus corridor and interchange, planning for the re-use of the Bankstown Town Hall as a Knowledge Centre and Library, development of the Bankstown Arts Centre and reconstruction of cross-city road and pedestrian linkages as well as LEP amendments to protect the commercial core of the CBD. These projects involved working with a range of government stakeholders such as State Rail, TfNSW, ArtsNSW, DPE and RMS on complex project delivery.

Luke was one of the SGS leads for the Parramatta ‘Auto Alley’ urban renewal plan for Church Street. This involved the evolution to a higher density mixed residential and commercial precinct, in very close proximity to the Harris Park and Parramatta railways stations.

Luke has been SGS Project Director for numerous strategic planning projects for local and state planning authorities.

  • In the area of local infrastructure funding policy reviews such as reviews of both the Ryde City Council and Penrith City Council development contributions frameworks. He has also led the development and management of contributions planning framework at PMHC, BMCC and at Bankstown City Council. Luke is the Project Director for the current Georges River City Council review of development contributions planning systems and plans.
  • He has also been SGS lead for business case and feasibility assessment for development for local infrastructure & facilities projects including a proposed social infrastructure libraries, cultural facilities and infrastructure projects. In addition to project delivery at Bankstown City Council (above), these include the planning, funding and development of the Echo Point tourism precinct at Katoomba including leading the redevelopment of the visitor and interpretative centre, the redevelopment of the Glenbrook VIC, Fairfield library, Canterbury arts centre and recent review of local infrastructure acceleration grant funding by DPE.
  • In regards to planning for places, Luke has led the development of the revitalisation strategy for the regional centre of Katoomba, plans for the revitalisation of the SW Sydney town centre of Yagoona and the planning for the Port Macquarie CBD. Luke is currently Project Director for a team developing a structure plan for the North-South Rail Link connecting the proposed WSA to St Marys, as well as preparing plans for the future development of St Marys as a strategic centre. Luke has led housing capacity studies for Randwick City Council and is currently Project Director for the Canada Bay Local Housing Strategy, as well as retail and employment lands strategy work, including economic analysis for the Eastern Sydney District and leading the major City of Sydney floorspace audit.
  • Luke has been engaged in the implementation of native title agreements between local authorities and traditional aboriginal owners of country as well development of co-management agreements.
  • Regarding provision of advice to government, Luke was the Project Director of teams from SGS providing analysis of reform proposals to strengthen local government in NSW, including advising major local authorities including as the Gosford, Liverpool, Parramatta, Penrith, Randwick, Warringah, Willoughby and Botany. Luke also has provided advice to the OLG on regional centre functional areas, including analysis of movement patterns in the Newcastle and Wollongong urban areas. Luke has also led strategy projects for the NSW Department of Planning.

Prior to re-joining SGS, Luke has lead, as an executive in local government, the development of local strategic asset management strategies, strategic plans for facilities and infrastructure (including recreation and open space and community facilities), economic initiatives such delivery of visitor Destination Management Plan for a key international tourism destination. This has included development of funding strategies for visitor infrastructure and delivery of major tourism facilities projects. Luke has led the preparation of local transport strategies as well as being engaged through WSROC in providing transport policy advice regarding the implementation of projects in Western Sydney such as the Liverpool-Parramatta RBT.

In 2017-18 Luke has also been one of the local government negotiators for the Western Sydney City Deal, establishing a new engagement between local, state and federal government in Australia for cities, in this case leveraging off the investment by the federal government establishing the Western Sydney Airport to development Western Sydney as the ‘third city’ of the Sydney metropolitan area.