The potential change in the planning landscape for residential development on our foreshore slopes continues to loom large on the horizon. The deadline of 30 November 2015 is fast approaching and there is still no news from the State government about any future change.
Over the last few weeks I have attended meetings with planners from councils in the area which is identified by the State as the North Subregion. This area consists of eleven councils on the north side of the Harbour – Pittwater, Warringah, Manly, Mosman, North Sydney, Lane Cove, Hunters Hill, Ryde, Hornsby, Willoughby and Ku-ring-gai.
This morning the Mayor, Councillor Peter Abelson, hosted a breakfast meeting with local business people to outline Council’s vision for the civic centre site. There was general support for what the Council is trying to achieve to secure improved community facilities on the site and revitalise the centre. This support was given with a note of caution about the effects of development, displacement and construction on business operators.
2014 saw planning take a back seat at the State level after the Government’s planning reforms stalled in the Upper House. At council we turned our attention to concentrating on local issues. Needless to say there were still changes happening at the State level that needed a local response to such as the much maligned 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Laws. Significant and comprehensive changes were also proposed by the State to SEPP 65 (Design Quality of Residential Flat Development) and its potential effect on development in Mosman was carefully considered and responded to.
Since 1 August this year new legislation has been in place that allows property owners to remove trees and vegetation from around their homes without consent to protect them from bushfire risk. Known as the 10/50 Rule this entitlement has resulted in the loss of many significant trees in Mosman. Of the more than 100 trees that have been removed that council is aware of, none have been removed for reasons of bushfire protection.
The State government has announced draft changes to SEPP 65 and the associated guidelines known as the Residential Flat Design Code. The draft documents are currently on exhibition for public comment until 31 October 2014.
In June 2014, architectural consultants HBO+EMTB were engaged by Council to undertake an analysis of Council’s needs for its site at Spit Junction.
The value of buildings which make a contribution to the significance of our heritage conservation areas has been highlighted in a recent decision of the Land and Environment Court. Council was recently involved in an appeal regarding the demolition of a house in a heritage conservation area.
2013 is the year that saw the State government’s vision for planning reform materialise into a Planning Bill debated in both Houses of Parliament. Its journey towards becoming an Act moved through the Lower House and has now stalled with its passage through the Upper House. Amendments to the Bill have addressed some community concerns and caused outcry from the development industry but no-one’s completely satisfied. The signs are that the changes will still produce a planning system with an “us and them” mentality characterised by division and adversary. The very things the Government claimed the new system would fix.