Established in 1964, The Paddington Society stands as a resilient and pioneering resident action group, often credited as Australia’s first of its kind. Notable founders include John and Pat Thompson who set the stage for a legacy of preservation lasting almost 60 years. During the 1960’s they realised that as the appreciation for the historical and aesthetic facets of Paddington grew, so did the imperative to safeguard them.

Since then the Society’s primary mission has consistently revolved around preserving the environmental and social well-being of Paddington while placing a significant emphasis on heritage and conservation. Throughout our history, we’ve achieved remarkable outcomes, championing the cause of preservation and appropriate development.

Some of our recent and past campaigns and participation in Council working parties are below; these successfully demonstrate our unwavering commitment to preserving the unique heritage and character of Paddington.

Conserving Heritage

Post WWII planning schemes designated Paddington as a ‘slum’ with a number of examples of inappropriate development of higher rise apartments appearing in the 1950/60’s. However, despite the rundown nature of the many rented properties they appealed to migrant groups and to a younger group of students and artists seeking an alternative to the quarter acre block of previous generations. The heritage value of the area was not lost and became the mission of a dedicated group of residents who formed the inaugural committee of The Paddington Society and produced a ground breaking document titled ‘Paddington, A Plan for Preservation’. This document, as valid today as it was then, led to many initiatives and set the conservation ball rolling.

The Development Control Plan

In the 1990’s the Society provided intensive input to Woollahra Municipal Council (WMC) on specific controls for a separate Development Control Plan (DCP) for Paddington, given its unique status across a definitive area. Members went on to advise Council over a ten year period on the detail required to conserve the heritage of the place, through monthly attendance on the DCP Working Party. The resulting document went on to receive a number of heritage awards for its thorough and ground breaking approach to conservation and its contribution to the conservation of Paddington’s heritage. We have advocated for similar heritage controls for the City of Sydney DCP.

Preparation of DA Objections

With our deep understanding of the heritage DCPs, a small team of Society members regularly examines development applications (DAs) in the Paddington area. We check for non-compliance with the DCP and prepare submissions to the relevant Council, noting concerns of most importance. This is seen as an important contributor to the preservation of Paddington’s built and environmental heritage and character and the amenity of our residents. In the majority of submissions, we share the same concerns as Council staff, and our aim, like theirs, is to encourage appropriate development. At all times each Council makes the determination.

DAs refused by Council can be challenged by the applicants for reappraisal by the Land and Environment Court. A member of the Society’s DA team, along with Council representatives, often attends the on-site Conciliation Conference to reinforce our reasons for seeking compliance with the DCP. These could be the DAs negative impact on neighbours’ amenity, or the loss of heritage of the place or the integrity of the streetscape.

Input to Large Site Development

The Society has had major input into the development of larger sites in Paddington, some with greater success than others.

  • Royal Hospital for Women

In the early 1990s the Society was represented on the Benevolent Society Reference Group, formed to consult with the community, including representatives from WMC, the City of Sydney, the National Trust and others. The Society members proposed a concept embodying key principles which were subsequently adopted by the Benevolent Society. These established the structure of the proposed development, including a 0.5 Hectare park, height of buildings, pedestrian routes and road alignments. The successful result of this exemplary consultation model can be seen today.

The community’s views were recently sought by Council regarding suitable lighting for the park. The outcome, based on detailed input from the Society, is subtle, unobtrusive solar powered lighting where required along the pathway that connects Flinton Street and Brown Street.

  • The Scottish Hospital

The outcome of consultation for the redevelopment of the Scottish Hospital provided significant benefits for Paddington. The Society fought for reduced height and bulk and the retention of more of the mature and historic landscape for which the renamed “The Terraces” site was known. A positive result proposed by the Society was the expansion of the Dillon Street Reserve to allow it to become a favoured local open space, now renamed Gugara Park.

  • Hakaoh White City

The redevelopment of White City was a saga in which the Society and the community fought vigorously over many years. We regret that this proposal will result in development on the valley floor with approved height and bulk of major buildings well in excess of earlier development controls prepared by WMC.

  • Weigall Sports Centre

Sydney Grammar School’s proposed development of a Sports Centre building to the south of Weigall Sportsground is another overly bulky development which will overwhelm and obstruct the outlook and amenity of adjacent public housing and residential properties. The Society objected to the scale of the proposal and put forward ways to mediate the impact of the development to make it more sympathetic to the surroundings.

  • Sydney Football Stadium and Moore Park

This State Significant Development on our southern doorstep has impact on local residents in terms of noise, lighting, traffic, parking and, at times, antisocial behaviour. The Society has consistently objected to the ramping up of event numbers without sufficient management of these impacts. We have also advocated for the removal of on-grass parking in Moore Park for Stadium events, and the return of parklands for passive recreation rather than for elite sports.

Caring for the Public Domain

The Society has always maintained that the public domain is as important as the rows of terraces that grace the streets and should therefore be treated with equal care and attention. Historically the network of Paddington streets and lanes which make up the public domain and set the framework for estate subdivision and terrace development was not to an overall plan but rather estate by estate as the time came for each to be developed. This incremental development contributed to one of the fascinating aspects of Paddington, the rather random form of the public domain which makes it so intriguing.

Input into New Planning Policy

Frequently State and local Government put forward new planning documents for community comment, such as Masterplans, Planning Proposals, amendments to Councils’ LEP and DCP or the formulation of new State Environmental Policies. The Society’s planning team often seek community input and make submissions in the interests of heritage and local residents.

Reducing the impact of traffic

Traffic issues have always been a major concern for Paddington. The proposals for the widening of Jersey Road and Liverpool Street/Boundary Street and the consequent demolition of many terrace houses gave rise to the formation of The Paddington Society in 1964. These issues augmented the recognition of the need to conserve Paddington as a largely intact heritage neighbourhood and has been strongly advocated by the Society for over 60 years. The impact of traffic remains an increasing concern, and the Society has strongly proposed that preserving the public domain is as important as preserving private dwellings. In doing this, the Society has argued for the preparation of a special set of public domain guidelines.

These should be developed with an urban design approach, recognising the heritage and environmental qualities of the area. This would avoid the wholesale application of standards developed for new residential precincts in outer suburbs. It is pleasing to report that WMC has commissioned a public domain study, and the Society is represented by three committee members on the Public Domain Working Party to provide advice to the consultants.

Toward an Integrated Traffic Management Plan

In 1997 the Society prepared a document calling for an integrated approach to traffic management which was presented to WMC. The document highlighted the need to take into account the heritage nature of the area and sought urban design solutions rather than standardised treatments such as roundabouts, chicanes and speed bumps. The Society favoured carefully designed footpath widenings, street tree planting and, importantly, lowering the speed limit to 40km/h.

Cross City Tunnel Impact Amelioration

At the time of the implementation of the Cross City Tunnel the Society prepared a study presented to WMC and the DMR (now TfNSW). The study proposed a number of urban design solutions to the problem of potential “rat running” through Paddington. Working closely with Council and DMR a number of the proposals were funded and implemented. The Society also strongly and successfully objected to the proposal to widen Barcom Avenue to allow two-way traffic from Flinders and South Dowling Streets to use Boundary Street as a major through route to the Cross City Tunnel.


The Society has been instrumental in the development of a number of landscaped gateways at the entrances to the Paddington village. These have incorporated widened footpaths, landscape treatment and installation of pedestrian crossings. The purpose of these gateways, in addition to a soft introduction to the Paddington area, is to assist in the calming of traffic entering the Paddington streets. Gateways have been introduced at the MacDonald Street and Liverpool Street intersection, Neild Avenue, Boundary Street and Lawson Street intersection; the Glenmore Road and Oxford Street intersection plus the Glenmore Road and New South Head Road intersection adjacent to Cadry’s Carpets.

Pedestrian crossings

As part of the Woollahra Traffic Working Party, the Society successfully negotiated with the DMR for the introduction of additional pedestrian crossings without the need to satisfy the official warrant process. This was agreed on the basis of the population density of Paddington and the high pedestrian activity in the area. Pedestrian crossings resulting from this initiative have been introduced at many of Paddington’s major street intersections.

Establishing a new landscape

Until the 1970’s the streets of Paddington were generally devoid of trees with the visual focus being on the rows of terraces. The majority of street trees were introduced in the mid 1970’s with varying degrees of success. Since then WMC has been reworking some streets to overcome problems of overshadowing and disruption to footpath levels. There continues to be a need to create a Landscape Masterplan which addresses the need for biodiversity and sustainability within a framework appropriate to the streets and houses of Paddington.

Paddington Greenway

The Society prepared a detailed submission on the Paddington Greenway, a pedestrian and cycling path passing through White City, extending from Woollahra to Rushcutters Bay Park. The proposal called for the widening of the reservation along the canal to allow for a landscaped pedestrian/cycleway, and included a pedestrian and cyclist path alongside Rushcutters Creek. The naturalisation of the creek would add to the Sydney Green Grid by providing a green corridor from Rushcutters Bay Park to Woollahra, enabling locals to walk or cycle from Neild Avenue Darlinghurst, to Jersey Road Woollahra, while only crossing one road (Glenmore Road).

Initial Oxford Street Plan and Oxford Street as the High Street

In 2013 the Society prepared, in collaboration with BikEast, a proposal for Oxford Street which put forward the concept of a wide shared lane for buses, cars and cyclists, a wide central median, and the reduction of speed limits to a consistent 40 kph.

During 2023 TfNSW’s proposed to introduce a permanent two-way cycleway on the south side of Oxford Street. In response the Society prepared a proposal for “Oxford Street as a Place for People”. This proposal put forward the importance of Oxford Street as the high street of Paddington, serving the businesses on both sides of the street and uniting the village centre. The proposal allowed for footpath widenings on each side to allow additional space for seating, landscape and outdoor dining, two lanes of traffic in each direction with shared lanes for cycles, buses and cars on the inner lane, reduction of speed limits to 30 kph, increased pedestrian crossings, and relocation of traffic lights to intersection locations. The proposal was presented to both councils, the Member for Sydney, and TfNSW.

Details of TfNSW current project, our proposal and their response can be found at the TfNSW Oxford Street East Cycleway website.


Working with WMC through the Traffic Working Party, Society members contributed to the upgrade of Fiveways. This involved preparation and presentation of urban design concepts for Fiveways as a place for people, including the reduction in size of the roundabout, reinstatement and widening of footpaths, and the introduction of three raised pedestrian crossings.

The Paddington Society has been a moderating force not only on major developments but also on the minutiae of the private and public domain of our precious precinct for over sixty years.