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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 over 20 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, regional policy & advocacy through the Western Sydney regional council group 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 the NSW Office of Local Government, the Ministers Advisory Panel and many individual local authorities on policy and reforms to strengthen local government. He is an expert in management of urban areas, local strategic planning as well as local government policy and governance.

Project Experience

In regards to strategic planning, in 1998-2000, Luke lead the development of a ground breaking city-wide Local Environmental Plan for the City of Blue Mountains that incorporate a digital terrain model, using early aerial laser scanning technology, the establishment of environmental protection zones to protect environmentally sensitive lands and identification of character protection zones. This land use plan remains an important part of managing one of only two cities in the World that are within a World Heritage National Park.

In 2007, Luke lead the review of the Hastings Urban Growth Strategy, the guide the future growth of the regional NSW centre of Port Macquarie, as well as negotiation of major urban release areas and associated Voluntary Planning Agreements as well as DCPs for infill development areas, including the Port Macquarie CBD.

In 2008-11 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, reuse 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 and 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. He 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 been SGS Project Director for numerous strategic planning projects for local authorities. This has included local infrastructure funding policy reviews such as reviews of both the Ryde City Council and Penrith City Council development contributions frameworks.

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 2012-14 Luke provided advice and analysis of reform proposals to strengthen local government for major local authorities including as the Gosford, Liverpool, Parramatta, Penrith, Randwick and Botany. This included spatial analysis of centres catchments, social and economic linkages, current and projected communities of interest, alternate governance models, financial appraisals of impact on shared services. Luke also provided advice to the OLG on mapping of travel zones for regional centres across NSW, including analysis of movement patterns in the Newcastle and Wollongong urban areas.

From 2015-2018 Luke has lead, as an executive in local government, the development of local strategic asset management strategies, strategic plans for facilities and infrastructure, economic initiatives such delivery of a visitor destination management plan for the Blue Mountains as a key international destination. This has included development of funding strategies for visitor infrastructure and delivery of major tourism facilities projects. In addition Luke has lead involvement in indigenous land use agreements (ILUA) and co-management agreements.

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.