Residents fume at 'odd' road detail in new Aussie housing estates

The narrow roads are sprouting up around one major city, with residents copping the frustrating impact.

A pair or narrow streets pictured with cluttered cars in new housing developments in western Sydney.
Narrow roads are sprouting up in Sydney's sprawling suburbia. Source: ABC/Google Street View

Residents in newly built suburbs are bearing the brunt of "odd" planning laws which permit housing developers to build so-called half-width streets, which are much narrower than standard streets. It means road rage between neighbours and an omnipresent fear of vehicle damage have become a daily part of life for those who call the new developments home.

Narrow streets are popping up in the outskirts of Sydney and local councils and the state government are reportedly pointing the finger at each other over who is responsible for having allowed it.

One street in Tallawong, situated in the north west of the city, is forcing residents to squeeze along the road in both directions despite there only being enough space for one-way traffic.

A Tallawong resident admitted it was "horrible" trying to get in and out of her home on the road in question, Ayla Street. Gloria claims she has even found herself in verbal altercations with other residents when attempting to travel in opposite directions on the narrow road.

"I've got in two fights before," she told ABC. "And I have to be constantly scared of [whether] my car is going to graze the fences over there."

Ayla Street resident Gloria inside her car wearing a seat belt and leaning out the driver's window.
Ayla Street resident Gloria is 'scared' her car will be damaged while trying to navigate the tight road. Source: ABC

The land where the apartment complex was built was once farming land before it was bought by the housing developer. Since neighbouring landowners didn't want to sell their land, it resulted in the half-width street being constructed to squeeze more housing in.

State government planning laws require housing developers to create public infrastructure like roads and footpaths when housing is built, however, the specifics of what these look like are agreed between the developer and local council. This is where the point of contention has emerged between the government and council and who is ultimately responsible for creating the rules.

Speaking to Yahoo News, Blacktown City council explained what was happening in Tallawong.

"The prevalence of small five-acre land holdings means individual land owners often develop in isolation, leading to 'fragmented development'. In these areas half road construction is more common," a Blacktown City council spokesperson said. There is up to 40 streets in the council area which are narrower that the standard road width.

It is unknown when these roads will be widened, if at all, as they were built on private land owned by different housing developers. Council said it is trying to minimise the impact on residents.

"Council empathises with residents who move in during the earlier stages of development. Where necessary, Council places restrictions on parking on narrow carriageways and/or implements one-way traffic flows," the spokesperson said.

The planning laws have created similar issues elsewhere in the city, with the residents of Thornton in the city's west wheeling their bins to neighbouring streets for years after garage trucks damaged property, unable to turn in the narrow streets.

Urban planning expert Paul Osmond told Yahoo News Australia that developing housing and building infrastructure is a "complicated" issue and simply having a wider road isn't always the most appropriate thing.

"It's not as simple as big streets, good. Small streets, bad. Looking at it from a sustainability perspective, I can see both sides," the UNSW Professor said.

He acknowledged the housing developer most likely created the narrower road in a bid to cut costs but said having less paved surface does help minimise the urban heat island effect – something that is already plaguing western Sydney suburbs.

Urban planners also say narrower roads mitigate speeding by forcing drivers to slow down, citing it as a positive for policymakers. They also point to narrower streets meaning less available parking, incentivising people to switch to public transport.

However overall he conceded it is "odd" to see the half-width streets popping up in new developments, noting they can make it difficult for public vehicles such as buses, as well as garbage trucks.

"That part of the world has inadequate public transport, which means everybody's got to have a car, at least one car within each family... so in that situation, you can see how they'd be inconvenienced. It is odd."

Do you have a story tip? Email:

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube.