August 1 - 7, 2021: Issue 504


Pittwater Environmental Heritage Group

Photo by Michael Mannington, Community Photography
Pittwater Environmental Heritage Group Facebook page:

When the re-amalgamation of Pittwater Council with Warringah Council was first mooted, despite an majority of Pittwater residents opposing this, local cynics cited a push for inappropriate and mass scale development was the root cause, not any inability of the then Pittwater Council to deal with expected or required 'scale and capacity' issues.

When the state government proceeded with forcible amalgamations on May 12th 2016, amid some Pittwater Councillors following the wishes of residents and being prepared to fight the forced amalgamation through the courts, a measure that proved successful for those Councils that did persist and persevere, the schisms that had led residents to secede from Warringah were reignited - and have not abated since.

A local residents group, Protect Pittwater, commenced gathering what they were advised were the required number of signatures to de-amalgamate, only to be told by the Minister for Local Government they would have to gather a percentage across the whole forcibly amalgamated area, not just that required from their former LGA.

Earlier this year the Council imposed on Pittwater stated it was required to present a local housing strategy to the state government wherein it selected places in Pittwater from Narrabeen to Avalon to become housing 'hubs' - a document which was passed on April 27th 2021, despite opposition to this in Pittwater. 

It should be noted that the Council has opposed inappropriate developments which run in contravention to the still in place Pittwater Council LEP, for example, the First Pittwater Determination by Sydney North Planning Panel: to amend the Pittwater Local Environmental Plan 2014 to facilitate Seniors Housing Development on Crystal Bay Newport and E4 be re-zoned R2 to 'allow the proposed use as well as other suitable uses' for all adjacent blocks, and a more recent similar development at Bardo road Newport in June 2021, a defence in the L&E Court also lost. A seniors development at North Avalon is still before the L&E Court with a decision expected imminently. 

At the monthly meeting held this week the council voted unanimously to continue its objection to the Newport Crystal Bay rezoning on a number of grounds, including that it is out of character with the surrounding area, is inconsistent with the surrounding E4 Environmental Living Zone, doesn’t provide affordable housing in line with the council’s affordable housing strategy; and is inconsistent with the NSW government’s North District Plan and council’s Strategic Planning Statement Towards 2040.

Pittwater 'ward' Councillor, Alex McTaggart, condemned the North Planning Panel and Northern Beaches Local Planning Panels. “They just don’t get what the community is about and that is that the built form shouldn’t dominate. This proposal dominates this little bay and it’s just the wrong development in the wrong location. It’s a really sad indictment on where council’s lost it’s planning controls.” he said.

However a Modified Development Application for shop-top housing on the former Palm Beach fish and chip shop site, for which residents were given just 14 days to respond to, for a proposed three storey building next to Barrenjoey House almost 15 metres in height, ''a height increase, increases the amount units from 4 to 6, increase to the building envelope in the amended rear setback, and various changes to setbacks on each elevation of the building and changes to the architectural design and street presentation'' the Council's Design + Sustainability Advisory Panel had 'no concerns' about, coupled with the June 2021 Northern Beaches Council's Budget & Delivery Program For 2021-22 Endorsed Through Block-Vote Of YNB Councillorswhich increases Business Rates for Pittwater and Manly from between 40 to 25%, with the endorsed budget document stating ''the new rating structure is to be fully implemented on July 1st 2021'', have led to Pittwater residents to form combined groups such as RAID - Residents Against Inappropriate Developments In Ingleside stating that now, more than ever, they need to stand up for Pittwater and Pittwater's future.

One of the Palm Beach members of a newly formed residents collective, the Pittwater Environmental Heritage Group, Anna Maria Monticelli spoke to Pittwater Online News this week about why this group has been convened. Anna Maria Monticelli is an award winning actress, writer and producer of international feature films. Her films and scripts have won many awards – including the film ‘Disgrace’ starring John Malkovich, which she adapted from the J.M. Coetzee novel of the same title. Anna has lived in Palm Beach for 39 years and is one of several Palm Beach residents whose work has led them to seek a quiet and beautiful place as a home.  

Anna, there’s a growing concern among Palm Beach residents about some of the development proposals, specifically that for the Palm Beach Fish and Chip shop and that on the other side of Barrenjoey House where the holding has been sold and where a similar proposal is being discussed already. How did you get involved?

A neighbour of Barrenjoey House rang me to state she had received a DA Notice about the Palm Beach fish shop proposal and that they only had a week to provide feedback. 

She remarked on the short notice as well as expressing her disbelief over the scale of the development proposal. 

I felt sorry for her as she didn’t know what to do – which is normal, a lot of people don’t know what to do in these circumstances, particularly older people as they’re not used to writing to council to complain. Plus the council website is very confusing and a lay person will have no idea if the development is within guidelines or not. 

I suggested she write to council and get all her neighbours to the same.

Barrenjoey House is heritage listed and the two proposed DA’s didn’t reflect the heritage and style of the village. If these two developments went ahead as proposed they would dominate the streetscape.

Common sense tells anyone that once such a development is allowed, others will take the opportunity to build similar structures quickly turning Palm Beach into Dee Why.

Any new development needs to be sensitive to the existing landscape and Pittwater’s historical importance.

These modern proposed developments are smack in the middle of the gateway to Palm Beach and Pittwater. Everyone has to pass them and we should be very mindful of maintaining the uniqueness of this part of Sydney.

Preserving the natural environment between the estuary and ocean, the landform headlands, bushland reserves, wetlands and mangroves, must be paramount.

Amazed, that Pittwater did not have some formal protection I began to investigate.  

What I discovered was that in 1989 Warringah Shire Council commissioned Greg Burton (an architect who specialises in heritage landscape) to do a Heritage Study of Pittwater and the Barrenjoey Peninsula. The Council instructed Greg to detail a scenic protection zone from the water to the land.

The whole argument being the special and visual structure and analysis of this physical place. The mantra of this was “respect the forest and make the buildings invisible”.  Unfortunately, this comprehensive study was never acted on and the proposals abandoned.

A copy of this four volume report gathers dust in Mona Vale Library.

I met with Greg recently who also is a Pittwater resident and a fellow of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects. His projects have been recognised as part of the most significant designed landscapes in Australia and has contributed to many publications concerning the disciplines of heritage landscape.

Greg remains disappointed the plan was never implemented by council and suggested it may be a good time to revisit his study with the view of protecting the area before it’s too late. I agree and think his plan should be opened up for public discussion with state government involvement. Rob Stokes the local state member and Minister for Planning, needs to take up this cause and protect the area – going on his track record whether he does so or not is open to speculation.

On another issue the recent Local Housing Strategy promoted by the Council is a case in point of confusion and frustration for concerned residents. I asked Council what is medium density and they couldn’t give me a definite answer, subsequently I’ve learnt from other sources it could be up to 6 storeys. This was never clear on the Council website and led to much angst.

But what is clear is that Avalon to Clareville is slated to absorb 275 dwellings. Again, nobody quite knows what the definition of ‘dwelling’ is but I’ve been told this could include apartment blocks and shop top flats. Think how many more cars that equates to.

Trying to understand the prosed strategy, I attended a public council meeting where residents could voice their opposition. To my surprise before any of the public could speak approximately half the councillors left the room because of ‘a conflict of interest’. This included two of Pittwater’s representatives (we have three councillors so only one Pittwater councillor heard residents concerned).

Needless to say, the Council’s proposed housing strategy plan passed. 

Hardly representative government!

To add insult to injury the Council is now asking for more feedback on their proposed new LEP and DCP’s. More hundreds of pages of incomprehensible reading - graphs, statistics, pictures of concrete corsos, with sprinkled greenery, endless design concepts and tables which only adds to more confusion. More feedback that can be ignored. 

In my view an expensive un-necessary PR exercise as council admits that their hands are tied by state government legislation. 

You need to be a lawyer or engineer to read through all the zoning, building guidelines and spin catch phrases like, “enhance collective community”, “council can mitigate loss of affordable housing”, ”harmonisations”,  “plans to manage aging population”, “caring for environment” and  I love this quote from their website “our aim is to protect everything that is important to you”. 

This was also on their website -

A new LEP and DCP for the Northern Beaches will provide our community with a clearer, simpler and fairer set of planning rules.  It is expected the these will be mainly based on existing controls and not seek to increase building heights or densities in residential areas, except as provided for by the Northern Beaches Local Housing Strategy,”

There is the catch – except as provided for by the Northern Beaches Local Housing Strategy.

In one sentence they give you rosy spin and then the truth at the end – but when you take the time to drill down into their website you get – 275 new dwellings of the medium density (up to 6 stories) in a 400 meters 360 degree radius from the village centres, which is a hell of a lot of buildings!  And yes this covers residential areas. 

The State Government is forcing the Northern Beaches into one new LEP (Local Environment Plan) and one DCP (Development Control Plan) which would unify all of Sydney with the same development codes – meaning there is no difference between areas, and no diversity allowed which would take into account particular environmental and heritage concerns of a particular place. Everything, everywhere would be the same – a developers dream come true where planning would be universal minus pesky local considerations.

If council’s hands are tied because of state laws we expect the council that represent us to fight these state laws. They should pressure the planning minister Rob Stokes for a separate LEP and DCP for Pittwater. I’ve been told some councils have comprehensive new environmental plans - so why don’t we? 

Pittwater is a unique area we need a Council who will champion our protection not be a lapdog to Macquarie Street.  

There is now a group formed to address this?

Yes. There are many groups who are angry and worried about the overdevelopment planned for the area and that their concerns, despite all the talk of consultation, are being ignored.

What we want is to have Pittwater listed as a heritage area – this doesn’t mean that there should be no development but any development must respect the environment and heritage that is already in place. 

We inherited a legacy and now it’s under renewed attack from more development - more people, more cars.  We live in Pittwater for its natural beauty and village-like living, these qualities are under threat and we now need to commit to preserving them. It’s essential that residents play their part in protecting the environment they so enjoy.

Pittwater attracts people from all over Sydney and indeed overseas - how can we contemplate ruining that? Other similar places around the world have demanded their own protection and kept a consistency that ensures tourism but also respects the environment. These include places in the U.S. like Newport Rhode Island, Maine and Martha’s Vineyard. Surely, we can do the same here.

In an ideal world it’s Council’s responsibility to pressure state government and advocate our cause but unfortunately that is not the world we live in. Even if Council changed spots and did the right thing I don’t have a lot of faith the state government would listen until they are forced to.

In other words, I firmly believe nothing will change until Pittwater gets rid of Rob Stokes the Minister for Planning and an independent gets elected who will champion the protection of the area.

Pittwater is a place we are privileged to enjoy but one that calls for constant care and protection by all who know and love it -  both the inheritors and the trustees for the future.”

A quote from a 1988 book Palm Beach 1788 – 1988 published by the Palm Beach Association of that time  - when I was a member.

How can people support this proposal?

There is now an email and a Facebook page for the Pittwater Environmental Heritage group.

Other members state:

We’re a new group formed because we’ve become aware that Pittwater is on a slippery slope towards more development and traffic chaos that could see our local paradise spoiled forever. NBC and the state government have been slowly introducing planning measures that encourage more and more development over the last 5 years.

It’s not going to stop unless we all DO SOMETHING!!  As a result of the council’s latest housing strategy, they plan on drawing a ring around Avalon and Newport of some 400m that will have much more intensive apartment type development.  Think of our seaside villages turned into local CBD’s. 

Mona Vale gets a ring of 800m around its centre that will see population skyrocket.

The congestion and the increase in development has crept up on us. It will not stop unless we take action. Our group says we should have environmental protection for this fragile peninsula from Mona Vale to Palm Beach, before it’s too late! Join the fight for Environmental Heritage status for Pittwater.

Pittwater: Death by a thousand cuts

An Open Letter to the Residents of Pittwater

Why is it that development in Pittwater seems to go on and on, to the point where we now spend much of our time in traffic jams?

We just need to look at the recent government/council “Housing Strategy” to understand how this has come about. 

This draconian document of some 147 pages contains all sorts of development measures: 4 flats and more on an average block, rings around the centres of Mona Vale, Newport and Avalon slated for higher development, boarding houses - the list goes on. 

Then, after what was called “community consultation”, an assessment is made by the council, finally telling us “Don’t worry, it’s only a few of the minor measures that will be introduced.”

And that, exactly, is the problem…

This is a long standing but cynical technique of the government and council to slowly but surely legislate for developer friendly planning rules. 

Over the last 5 years, these minor measures have had the effect of opening development opportunities in the form of dual occupancies, granny flats, apartments and seniors living. 

There is no cap on any of these measures and neither will there be in the next 5 years unless something is done to curtail this over development. 

Crude development or sensitive development?

We’re positive about sensitive development for Pittwater - development that supports the environment, climate change, bio-diversity, sustainability and imaginative design, but not the mindless measures the government and council have slowly blanketed Sydney with over a period of time. That’s the “Death by a thousand cuts” that has afflicted fragile areas of Sydney with over a period of time. That’s the “Death by a thousand cuts” that has afflicted fragile areas of Sydney. Neither does this make business sense: we’re simply downgrading our city’s tourist potential.

How many people can we fit in this narrow peninsula?

Everyone must share the burden, they say, but how can a spit of land, serviced by one road in and out, possibly support more and more increases in population? 

It seems crazy that while other regional parts of the state could benefit from development, they want to destroy one of the most beautiful parts of Sydney. It is now time for our community to send a unified message to the Council and the State Government.

Our unique environment must be saved…

Join The fight for Pittwater’s Environmental Heritage

"Pittwater must become an environmental heritage area”

We must protect this unique peninsula

There are many beautiful areas of Sydney that make this an international city. For the sake of our economic future and for future generations, surely we don’t want to destroy those areas. 

Some areas are already sacrosanct. The Rocks is a good example. Other areas are protected by tradition and heritage.

Pittwater should be similarly protected. Pittwater is a unique environment, being surrounded by the ocean on one side and the waters of Pittwater on the other. 

Can we stand by and see Pittwater vandalised by excessive traffic and over development?

Everything we now know about the environment, bio-diversity, the ecology and climate change tells us what is happening in Pittwater is wrong. 

If you’re fed up with congestion, horrendous traffic and the ongoing onslaught of development, join:

The fight for Pittwater’s Environmental Heritage

Our community group is designed to keep Pittwater residents connected via email and Facebook. 

  • It’s a not for profit community organisation and is not affiliated with any political group whatsoever. 
  • It’s purpose is to bring about Environmental Heritage status for Pittwater. 
  • It is not intended to supersede local community groups, in fact, it is designed to complement and help all local groups.

An email address is all that is required for membership. You may withdraw your email address at any time. 

We hope to bring about a united Pittwater voice. United we stand, divided we fall. 

To Join: Email: 

Our unique environment must be saved…

These are some Swamp Mahogany trees in the nature reserve of Shearwater Estate Warriewood. Just next door to the Warriewood Wetlands. This is how early untouched Warriewood looked due to Pittwater Council keeping these trees intact during development. Joe Mills Photo, July 2021

NB: The Pittwater Environmental Heritage group is not affiliated with and should not be confused with the Pittwater Natural Environment Association.