Local guidelines must support quality property development: Chris Johnson

Local guidelines must support quality property development: Chris Johnson
Local guidelines must support quality property development: Chris Johnson


The NSW Government slipped a number of planning documents into the public realm about local character the day before caretaker mode.

There have been no announcements about proposed new policies on Local Character that are now exhibited on the NSW Department of Planning website.

We are concerned about the addition of new requirements on Local Character that seem to focus only on low scale existing environments with little advocacy for how new development can create a quality urban character.

The government has issued a ‘Discussion Paper - Local Character Overlays’ and a ‘Local Character and Place Guideline’, but 75 pages of material are totally focussed on existing low density examples.

A new ‘Local Character Overlay’ will require applicants to conform to the statement of the local character.

While the term ‘future local character’ is mentioned there is virtually no guidance on what this means and how communities could understand options for growth.

The guideline seems to want change as well as support for the existing local character when it states, ‘The NSW planning system contains levers to encourage change and development that supports local character.

The tallest building in the whole guideline is 3 storeys high.

The only example for a change of local character is the Thornton Housing Estate in north Penrith on a greenfield site (p31) which is described as having ‘a villagestyle character’.

A section of the Guideline is allocated to ‘Local Character in infill versus greenfield areas’ (p 15) but the text only covers greenfield areas with no mention of the more sensitive infill areas where new development will impact on the existing local character.

The Urban Taskforce supports local character as being important to communities but believes the Guideline and the Discussion Paper on Local Character will add another layer to the planning system and will encourage communities to argue against new development.

What the government should be doing is producing guidelines on the range of new development options that will be required to build 725,000 new homes in Sydney over the next 20 years. The guidelines should cover the range of built form types from 2 floors to 6 floors, 12 floors, 20 floors up to 40 floors and outline appropriate locations and describe the urban character of each option.

To help the NSW Government in this task the Urban Taskforce has produced a website www.ecodencity.com.au which has an interactive Density Simulator to demonstrate how density, height and open space variables can produce quality places.

A range of case studies are presented from 100 people per hectare (Oran Park) to 1,000 people per hectare (Central Park).

Communities need planning tools on how change is managed to create quality built environments rather than new planning layers that encourage the protection of the existing local character.

CHRIS JOHNSON is the Urban Taskforce CEO

NSW Urban Taskforce

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