February 18 - 24, 2024: Issue 614


State Government Planning changes for medium to high density triggers call to provide feedback: closes Friday February 23

The NSW Government has announced changes to planning laws. The new planning reforms would apply to the “Six Cities” region stretching from Wollongong to Port Stephens and include the Blue Mountains to the West. There are two significant reforms: The Transport Orientated Development (TOD) Program and the new SEPP (State Environmental Planning Policy) which comes into effect on 1st April 2024.

Under the second reform, changes to Low- and Mid-rise Housing currently on exhibition, State-imposed zonings and controls would significantly weaken local democratic input into the built form and character of large areas of most Local Government Areas.

The proposed reforms seek to:

  • Allow dual occupancies (two dwellings on the same lot) in all R2 low density residential zones across NSW (up to 9.5m in height, minimum lot size 450 sq.m).
  • Allow terraces, townhouses and 2 storey apartment blocks near transport hubs and town centres in R2 low density residential zones across the Six Cities Region(up to 9.5m in height, minimum lot size 450 sq.m). 
  • Allow mid-rise apartment blocks near Transport Hubs and Town Centres in R3 medium density zones across the six cities region -up to 21 metres in height/7 storeys. 
  • Allow residential flat buildings up to 16 metres/5 storeys in height on land zoned R3 Medium Density Residential within the outer part of the station and town centre precinct and are between 400m and 800m walking distance of town centres .

The NSW Government’s Explanation of Intended Effect: Changes to create low and mid-rise housing, December 2023 defines a “station or town centre precinct”, a new term being introduced under the reforms, to include land within 800m walking distance of land zoned E1 Local Centre but only if the zone contains a wide range of frequently needed goods and services such as full line supermarkets, shops and restaurants.

Appendix A in the NSW Government’s Explanation of Intended Effect: Changes to create low and mid-rise housing, December 2023 lists the changes.

To facilitate and encourage these developments, the NSW Government proposes to set non-refusal standards that will override councils own planning controls unless the equivalent local environmental plan or development control plan standard is more permissive.

Council has prepared a submission on the proposed reforms, however, after meetings with residents groups, those attending found it became apparent that the full document (some 40 pages) will be submitted to State Planning by the 23 February deadline  but it will not be debated and voted on in Council until the meeting to be held on 27 February.

Council has sought and been given permission by the State Government to submit its feedback late since then.

Attendees are asking why has the NBC been missing in action while Ku-ring-gai Council has evoked 75% community support for forensically analysing the EIE and making strong demands of the Government before it looks at proceeding further.  With the support of its community, Ku-ring-gai Council has voted unanimously to take action and to demand better planning from the NSW Government.

''Where was a December/January EGM for our elected Councillors to address this draft being submitted as the Northern Beaches Council's official response?'' one resident has asked

Residents have also pointed out the Council has already been approving DA's with height limit breaches and multiple stories across Pittwater.

See: Clear Breach Of Height Limit In DA Recommended For Approval On Old Palm Beach Fish & Chip Site + Rezoning Of Pittwater Plans Ignite Renewed Calls For A Return Of Pittwater Council

The 'Maya' site at Mona Vale in 2023

However, the Council has pointed out the changes raise several concerns around planning, infrastructure, the environment, and hazards, including in Council's list: 

  • Rezoning by stealth: The changes are in effect rezoning land for higher density uses without going through a rezoning process. The rezoning process allows all relevant factors to be considered for good strategic planning outcomes. The one-size-fits-all approach as outlined here does not and it undermines the very basis of the planning system in NSW.
  • Inconsistency with state and local strategic planning policies: The changes are inconsistent with planning statements and actions contained in the North District Plan, and Council’s Local Strategic Planning Statement and Local Housing Strategy. 
  • Insufficient justification for changes: While the “housing crisis” is acknowledged, no analysis has been provided to Council to justify the detailed changes proposed and no estimates of the additional population likely to result has been provided.
  • Impact on local character: The changes take no account of local circumstances or character, potentially resulting in wholesale changes to the built form of our local centres and to low density residential suburbs surrounding those centres.
  • Impact on roads and infrastructure: The changes take no account of the potential increase in population and impacts on traffic, parking and demand for services and facilities; for example, parks, schools, and community centres that are required to service new residents.
  • Impacts on natural hazards and resilience: No assessment has been made of the potential impacts of locating additional population in areas subject to flooding, bush fire or sea level rise. Rather, Council will need to assess these impacts on a case-by-case basis through the development assessment process.
  • Reduced landscaping and tree canopy: The changes propose substantial increases in density; for example, permitting far higher floorspace ratios, necessarily resulting in loss of landscaping and tree canopy.
  • Local amenity impacts: The changes will increase issues associated with shadowing, privacy, and loss of views for neighbouring properties.

The State Government has provided an estimate of the additional population, stating NSW is expected to grow on average by over 85,000 people each year until 2041.

Additionally, late last year the State Government's NSW Planning Department recommended Pittwater keep all its present Conservation Zones. 

See: A Huge Win For Pittwater's Environment! Pittwater To Keep Its Conservation Zones

At the same time the connection between these proposed new controls and the new affordable housing bonus provisions that came into effect in December 2024 need to be taken into account. The reforms introduce a new bonus Floor Space Ratio (FSR) of up to 30 per cent and a height bonus of up to 30 per cent where a proposal includes a minimum of 15 per cent of the gross floor area (GFA) as affordable housing. The changes also allow state-owned housing agencies to build more affordable housing without needing council approvals.

Although house prices across this LGA make it one of the least-affordable, with a Median listing price of $2,500,000 for a house and $1,100,000 for a unit, Council made adjustments to its own planning for housing requiring developers required to meet the Affordable Housing Contributions Scheme. Passed in December 2021, this allows the Council to collect contributions from developers which it states it will use to provide affordable housing in the LGA, and, in the case of the Frenchs Forest Town Centre, an affordable housing target of 15 percent is proposed for the town centre, and 10 percent for other areas (except land at Karingal Crescent).

Lastly, the Government’s 7-Star thermal performance rating requirement on new residential buildings does not apply to apartments below six storeys. These will be exempt from thermal performance improvement unlike other homes required to go from 5.5 Star rating under the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS) to 7 or a maximum of 10 Stars! This will compromise NSW’s climate targets and liveability of the developments themselves.

The new incumbent state government has signalled a clear intention that housing be alongside good transport corridors, alongside train stations and railways in particular, and to build up, not out, to prevent urban sprawl, destroying more habitat and keep what is left of urban bushland intact.

Under the National Housing Accord, the NSW Government has committed to providing an additional 377,00 homes by 2029.

'But we need to do this in areas that are already well serviced by transport and amenities' one of the government's fact sheets state (diverse and well-located homes fact sheet).

As the changes, if passed as is, and even without the transport and amenities already built-up areas enjoy, would still allow the kind of non-refusable development that would destroy what millions of people come to Pittwater for annually; a place of open green space and pristine waters with houses tucked below the treeline, iconic beaches that aren't tourist traps, and iconic heritage buildings and spaces such as Barrenjoey Light Station, Pittwater environment and residents groups are asking everyone to make a submission.

An overview is available on Diverse and well-located homes

Public submissions on proposed changes are on exhibition for public comment until Friday 23rd February 2024.

The NSW State Government intends that the proposals will take effect by the end of June 2024.

Read supporting documents and lodge your submission HERE or HERE

Ku-ring-gai Council is calling for:

  • Consulting directly with communities
  • Working with local councils to understand each community
  • Protecting natural and built heritage 
  • Maintaining the tree canopy, wildlife and environment 
  • Investing in all necessary new and additional infrastructure

Ku-ring-gai Council states the changes will lead to:

  • An increase in traffic congestion
  • Loss of trees and wildlife
  • Loss of heritage and character
  • Strain on existing infrastructure and facilities 

Miranda Korzy Pittwater Greens Councillor comment on Labor planning proposal:

“I am completely opposed to NSW Labor’s planning proposals. Not only would they allow tree canopy in residential areas to be trashed, they are fundamentally, anti-democratic, envisaging stripping away yet another layer of council’s planning powers - and the rights of residents to object to developments.

I welcome council staff’s acceptance of invitations from Pittwater community groups to roundtables to discuss the changes. These will help a wider pool of residents to get to grips with the wishy-washy documents and I hope encourage them to make submissions.

On Friday, I gave notice that I would call for an extraordinary meeting for councillors to debate the Northern Beaches Council submission before the closing date next Friday - if we were unable to secure an extension of time past the scheduled meeting on February 27.

Fortunately, staff were able to secure an extension that day to March 1, giving the community time to read the submission in the council papers and councillors time to debate it at the scheduled meeting.”   

Miranda Korzy Pittwater Greens Councillor Comment piece on Labor’s planning proposals:

Governments are known for “putting out the garbage” either just before or during the Christmas break and NSW Labor’s proposed planning changes to increase density fall into this category. How else do you describe their release of plans to scrap council control over planning for residential areas days before the holidays, an overreach that continues the usurpation of local planning powers by successive state governments? This is a knee-jerk reaction, very light on detail, to solve the massive housing shortage in NSW. 

Even at the most basic level, their explanatory document“Changes to create low- and mid-rise housing”  fails to define exactly what a “town centre” is - the criteria to be used for allowing multi dwelling houses in residential areas. Planners tell us that they’re often based on the size of the local supermarket, so under the proposal, it seems Mona Vale with its large supermarkets would be likely to see lots of unit blocks of up to seven stories within 400 metres of the centre. Meanwhile, it’s impossible to tell if small centres with smaller supermarkets, like Newport and Avalon, would be sacrificed as well.   

However, there’s no need to shoehorn more and more people into Sydney. We no longer have a manufacturing base here requiring a mass industrial workforce. These “reforms”, which pay scant regard to local geography or infrastructure, would destroy the environment, heritage and character of swathes of Pittwater - as well as everywhere else between Newcastle and the Illawarra. Sydney is already a "global city", influencing world economic and cultural trends, but becoming bigger and busier won't necessarily benefit us, the residents.

Research indicates that whilst young single people and downsize-ers are prepared to live in units close to city centres, parents with young children are already moving out of Sydney to find affordable homes with gardens - particularly along the coast. Demographer Simon Kuenstenmacher told a Local Government conference in 2022 that families don’t want to raise their kids in units. Furthermore, the population of regional areas is ageing faster than metro centres, except for coastal regions and their hinterland which are booming.  

If we care about the quality of life for residents, we need to undertake fundamental long term planning to decentralise across NSW, building infrastructure such as high speed rail to connect communities and carry freight, as well as medical and educational facilities in regional cities to support families there and attract more. In Sydney, we need to allow councils - which in the case of the Northern Beaches is part way through developing its Local Environment Plan - to retain control of planning, allowing residents to object and to block inappropriate development. And we don’t want to see garbage like ill-prepared planning proposals shoved out on the street just as we go on summer holiday.

I encourage everyone with time to make a submission on the proposal - closing date is next Friday February 23.

Protect Pittwater is also collecting signatures on a petition opposing the NSW Government's planning proposals. Protect Pittwater have provided the below petition for residents to complete and send into the PO address listed on that document, and ask that residents also make a submission. 

Labor planning proposals petition 1.2.24.pdf Labor planning proposals petition 1.2.24.pdf
Size : 73.729 Kb
Type : pdf

The Council approved Dee Why streetscape as at 2021