A one size fits all approach to housing density will have detrimental impacts on the Northern Beaches and should be abandoned, Council has warned.

The NSW Department of Planning, Housing and Infrastructure has proposed changes to State planning policies to create low and mid-rise housing to increase housing supply.

Northern Beaches Council is calling on Government to abandon the low and mid-rise housing reforms as outlined in the Department’s ‘Explanation of Intended Effect: Changes to Create Low and Mid-rise Housing’ (EIE), noting that Council already has the capacity to plan for future growth.

Northern Beaches Mayor Sue Heins said the anticipated scale of development that is proposed in the EIE would have long lasting environmental and social impacts for the local area. 

“We want to be part of the solution to Sydney’s housing crisis, but unplanned development of this scale will lead to greater congestion on local roads, put pressure on community infrastructure and overload the very limited public transport options available on the Northern Beaches,” Mayor Heins said.

“The proposals do not require the provision of any new affordable housing units.

“In some areas, it will change the local character of our neighbourhoods, reduce tree canopy and threaten local heritage.”

The proposals are also in conflict with current and proposed Council-led precinct planning in places like Frenchs Forest, Brookvale and Mona Vale. For example, the proposed number of dwellings under the Brookvale Structure Plan is based on detailed analysis of traffic capacity along Pittwater Road. The additional dwellings proposed within 800 metres of Warringah Mall under the Government’s proposals have not been accounted for and will likely exceed the capacity of the local road system. 

Council recognises the potential for residential flat building development in parts of the R3 medium density zone and dual occupancy development in some areas of the R2 low density zone, however not at the scale and density proposed in the EIE.

“We would need to see changes to infrastructure contribution plans and affordable housing contribution plans to ensure new developments help fund the infrastructure and affordable housing required to alleviate the pressures of higher density,” Mayor Heins said. 

“Councils should be allowed to identify alternative solutions to increase housing supply in certain areas and the Government should fast-track these initiatives through amendments to our Local Environment Plans.

“We understand the urgency to respond to the housing crisis, but Councils need to be part of the process.”

Council will make a submission to the Department, noting that Council is best placed to make planning decisions that affect the community due to its knowledge of the Northern Beaches' unique, fragile, natural environment and infrastructure constraints.

Recommendations include:

  • Provide Councils a period to identify alternative strategies for growth and infrastructure to meet housing targets in existing Local Housing Strategies
  • Provide funding assistance to Council to expedite the preparation and exhibition of affordable housing contribution plan amendments, and funding assistance to meet the increased resource burden of ongoing development assessments
  • Reinstate the Beaches Link Tunnel project 
  • Fund and deliver major infrastructure projects including Mona Vale Road West Widening project, a Bus Rapid Transit system from Chatswood to Dee Why, grade separation of Warringah and Pittwater Roads to support more housing in Brookvale and regional traffic infrastructure to support more housing in Frenchs Forest
  • Provide funding to Council to complete the technical studies required for implementing the Brookvale Structure Plan.

If the EIE proposals were to proceed, Council would recommend the Department: 

  • demonstrate adequate existing capacity or sufficient funding for essential road, stormwater, sewer, water and waste infrastructure upgrades to support increased density

  • exclude Heritage Conservation Areas, heritage items and areas subject to hazards such as flooding or bushfires

  • reduce the proposed maximum building height and floor space ratio for mid-rise and low-rise housing to alleviate local amenity impacts

  • reduce the proposed maximum building height, floor space ratio and increase lot size and frontage requirement for multi-dwelling housing and dual occupancy development to preserve local amenity; and many other measures to support sustainable growth.