A major announcement from the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) could see an explosion of medium and higher density residential development on the Northern Beaches.
Proposed amendments to State Environmental Planning Policy (Housing) 2021 would override all NSW councils’ planning controls and restrict a local council’s capacity to refuse inappropriate development.
The implications of the proposed policy are alarming for the Northern Beaches, our community and the environment.
Key changes for the Northern Beaches
- Allowing two dwellings on the same lot, also known as dual occupancy, in all R2 low density residential zones across the Northern Beaches on properties with an area of greater than 450sqm and width of 12m.
- Allowing many properties over 500sqm within 800m walking distance of most of our village and town centres to develop medium density housing. Specifically, in R2 low density zones residential areas within 800m walking distance of land zoned E2 Commercial Centre, E1 Local Centre, or MU1 Mixed Use, the changes would allow terraces and manor houses on properties with an area of 500sqm, and townhouses on areas of 600sqm.
- Allowing Residential Flat Buildings and shop top housing up to 21 metres (7 storeys) in R3 medium density residential zones that are within 400m walking distance of most of our village and town centres - land zoned E2 Commercial Centre, E1 Local Centre, or MU1 Mixed Use.
- Allowing Residential Flat Buildings up to 16 metres (5 storeys) in R3 medium density residential zones that are between 400m and 800m walking distance of most of our village and town centres - land zoned E2 Commercial Centre, E1 Local Centre, or MU1 Mixed Use
Implications for development on the Northern Beaches
These changes have considerable implications for our area. Should the changes come into effect, our area would look drastically different.
- Increased building heights in town centres: Most of our town centres and villages currently have height restrictions of between 2 to 4 storeys. The proposed changes would permit shop-top housing style development up to 7 storeys in these centres, including centres like Avalon, Narrabeen, Mona Vale, Balgowlah, Manly, Forestville, Dee Why, Frenchs Forest, Forestway and Belrose.
- Increased building heights in R3 residential flat building zones: The majority of our R3 residential flat building zones have height restrictions of between 2 to 3 storeys. The proposed changes would permit flat buildings up to 7 storeys within 400m of our town centres, and up to 5 storeys within 400m-800m of our town centres. Areas affected include centres like Warringah Mall, Avalon, Narrabeen, Mona Vale, Balgowlah, Manly, Forestville, Dee Why, Frenchs Forest, Forestway and Belrose.
- Dual Occupancy permitted on small lots in all R2 low density residential zones: The majority of our R2 low density residential zoned areas permit dwelling houses, with dual occupancy housing also permitted in suburbs falling under the Manly and Pittwater Local Environment Plans, subject to strict subdivision controls. The proposed changes will permit dual occupancy generally up to 9.5m on small lots (minimum 450sqm and 12m width) across the entire local government area.
- Townhouses and 2 storey flats in R2 zones within 800m of local centres: Only the Manly LEP permits townhouses in the R2 zone, subject to strict density and subdivision controls. The proposed changes will permit townhouses, terraces and 2 storey flats up to 9.5m on relatively small lots (500-600 sqm) in the R2 zone within 800 m of most of our local centres.
What are Council concerns?
These radical changes raise several concerns for Council around planning, infrastructure, the environment, and hazards.
- 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 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.
What is Council doing about this?
Council is preparing a submission on the proposed reforms. We have also written to the Honourable Paul Scully, Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, expressing significant concerns about the radical proposal, and requested an urgent meeting with the Premier and Minister for Planning.
Council is also reviewing the interrelationships between these proposed new controls and the new affordable housing bonus provisions that came into effect last week.
What can you do?
We encourage you to provide feedback by making a submission directly to the NSW Department of Planning and Environment.
The proposal is open for public comment from 15 December 2023 to 23 February 2024.