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Overdevelopment in Sutherland Shire

The Complexities of Introducing a New Plan

The previous Sutherland Shire Council responded to residents' opposition to rampant development in Sutherland Shire by adopting two important measures: first, the Townhouse and Villa Development Control Plan (DCP) to control medium density development, and second the preparation of a new Shire Local Environmental Plan (SSDLEP2003).

The amended DCP was adopted in 2001 and has proved to be very effective in controlling medium density development. The three prime elements introduced were a 10% limit of villas or townhouses in a given area, a separation distance and a maximum of 7 dwellings in any one development.

The new Draft LEP was exhibited in February 2003 and included the provisions of the above DCP. This was done in order to strengthen the controls and ensure that they remained effective. (A DCP is open to challenge by a developer in the Land and Environment Court .)

It is worth noting that the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning issued the section 65 certificate to allow public exhibition without conditions. It accepted the DCP as part of the new LEP.

As a result of the exhibition, residents indicated they wanted some changes - primarily on the waterfront.

This time, the planning body, now re-named the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources (DIPNR) required a new format.

This meant that another section 65 certificate had to be issued and the LEP re-exhibited. The revised plan was called Draft LEP 2004 or the "Peoples' Plan".

But DIPNR now changed its mind to the detriment of the Shire.

Those elements which residents had indicated were an essential part of the plan- namely the medium density controls and no development over railway stations-have been declared unacceptable by DIPNR so the second section 65 certificate has been conditioned to exclude them from the LEP.

However, Council once more did what it considered was right and in accord with the EP&A Act.

The EP&A Act 1979 requires Council to consider submissions and allows Council to alter the draft plan as it considers to be necessary.

After the plan was exhibited, Council noted residents' submissions and responded by including the development controls, which DIPNR had indicated it would not accept, in the draft LEP2004 forwarded to DIPNR.

This Plan was not gazetted and has now been returned again to Council by DIPNR with the suggestion that it is not acceptable and may need to be re-exhibited again- third time!

The State Government is committed to more urban "consolidation" - that is, more residential flats, more medium density, more development on surplus government land and to development over railway stations.

Our neighbourhood is threatened, and the natural environment will suffer even more.

The new 2004 Council is now deliberating on the options available to it.

Recent history of planning housing for Sutherland Shire

Sutherland Council developed a housing strategy as part of the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning's Residential Strategies for urban consolidation. Community input began at a well-attended Housing Forum in March 1996. Council's Draft Housing Strategy was completed late in 1996.

By August 1996, only four of the 53 councils in the greater metropolitan area had responded to requests to nominate sites to accommodate growth as required by DUAP. Then Planning Minister Craig Knowles thundered, "The message to councils: if they do not properly plan for their future growth, then the State Government will be forced to do it for them" (SMH, 9 August 1996).

Council adopted the Housing Strategy on 20th of January 1997.

The Housing Strategy was refused by DUAP.

In a letter to Council dated the 25th of September 1997, Craig Knowles wrote: "In recommending against acceptance of Council's Strategy, the Residential Strategy Advisory Committee was concerned about Council's requirement that 80% or more of owners in an area must agree to a rezoning before it can be considered by Council. It is considered that this is an inappropriate approach as it will prevent much multi-unit development that would otherwise be in accordance with the Strategy."

Council capitulated.

In accepting the Council's Rezoning Policy, which excluded the 80% provision, DUAP's R. Stephens, Assistant Director, Sydney Region East, wrote: "Having regard to the earlier decision, the Department would not (irrespective of the level of support) endorse a Council policy which again relied on owner agreement prior to the consideration of rezoning requests. Such an approach is at odds with the process established under the provisions of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, 1979".

DUAP did, however, approve Sutherland's LEP, including the Housing Strategy, without making any changes to the number of dwellings to be provided over the Strategy's 1996-2011 life. Of the 12,000 dwellings agreed to in the Housing Strategy, only 4,465 remain to be built.

What's a Housing Strategy?

Council is now ready to ask residents to choose from 6 Options the one that will achieve such slower growth and provide the basis of a revised Housing Strategy, a document concerned with housing numbers and types, and associated transport, environment, social and employment issues.

What's a Local Environment Plan?

When the Housing Strategy is in place, Council will proceed to draft a Local Environment Plan, the significant document which will lay down the "codes" or "building controls" that will ensure compliance by developers with the intentions of the Housing Strategy. Council sees a new LEP as its core responsibility. So, following exhaustive community consultation, it aims to complete what it is calling "The Peoples LEP" before its term-of-office is up in September 2003.

Community Representatives consider housing numbers of prime importance

The three community representatives on the People's LEP Committee have consistently questioned any measures that should tend to high density development — large housing numbers — because they will detract from residents' quality of life, increase traffic congestion and impact on our Shire's precious environment.

In particular, we don't support increasing the potential for unit/flat development and we have opposed high-rise above these storeys. We do support areas of need, such as housing for older residents, where lack of hostels and nursing homes has been demonstrated. Of course such housing must be located where it offers proximity to facilities and services needed by these residents.

The six options

Option 1. This is based on the existing ('old') Housing Strategy which in 1996 planned an increase of 4,465 additional dwellings over the next 10 years -a modest level of development.

Option 2. This reduces the 4,465 increase that is currently is potential to the next 10 years -a reduction in development.

Options 3,4,5,6. All these increase the potential number of dwellings - that is, above the current 4,465 over the next 10 years -an increase in development.

We ask you to read "A Blueprint for Action" and make your choice — and if possible add a written comment. (We community representatives favour Option 1.)

N.B. None of the options can possibly house everyone who wants to live in Sutherland Shire. Every option is a compromise.

Can housing numbers really be limited?

Yes, they can be limited if the LEP prescribes quality standards with which developers must comply. The Housing Strategy should lay down guidelines for these standards and the LEP is the implementing tool which states expressly what must be done. There is strong community pressure for Council to act decisively to limit the widely perceived overdevelopment of recent years. Such pressure is likely to be restated in residents' choice of an option.

Hasn't the Shire done its share of accommodation Sydney's increasing population?

The State Government keeps pressing Council to increase the density of the Shire's residential areas. Already, with 215,000 residents, we are the second most populous of Sydney's 43 municipal areas... It's time to say, "Enough — stop!"

Our natural environment and our urban infrastructure, particularly our roads and public transport, are having great difficulty in coping.

An increase in development cannot be justified — we owe to ourselves and our children nothing less than the present level of the Shire's quality-of-life.

Population growth is not inevitable

Europe's 31 countries are contracting to a more comfortable population level. Today, Europe's population is 726.3 million, it will be 603.3 million in 2050 (123 million less).
  • Italy: 57.5 million today, 43.0 million in 2050
  • Spain: 39.9 million today, 31.3 million in 2050
Japan's population, 127.3 million today, will be a more comfortable 109.2 million in 2050

Reference: The State of World Population 2001 Report by UNFPA, Footprints and Milestones: Population and Environmental Change

Providing for an ageing population

  • SEPP5 is not a useful tool for providing aged and disabled accommodation, it merely assists urban consolidation by encouraging over 55s to abandon their homes for multi-unit dwellings
  • Frail aged and disabled people need special accommodation, particularly nursing homes, group homes and hostels, not simply small units
  • Many over 55s prefer to 'age in place'; enjoying the back yard shed, the garden, and the space to accommodate visiting friends and children
  • A recent report from The Australia Institute shows:
    • The vast majority of older Australians enjoyed healthy, active and independent lives, with 93 per cent living in private homes and only 7 per cent in residential care.
    • Only 3.5 per cent of people over 65 required public assistance for daily living.
    • Only one third of those over 80 required help with self-care activities

Reference: Population Ageing: Crisis or Transition, Dr Kinnear, 2001

Exercise caution

The present Council was elected with a strong mandate to curb overdevelopment, but it may have difficulty in achieving any chosen option:

  • The existing housing strategy 'blew out' dramatically because the LEP was not framed to control development to the level indicated in the Housing Strategy - the LEP must contain controls that will ensure there is no future 'blow out'.
  • State Government may overrule Council on Government sites and SEPP5 developments - the LEP must include a strategy for aged and disabled housing in order to obtain an exemption from SEPP5.
  • Some developments 'in the pipeline' are not counted in the options ( Toyota site, 290 dwellings)
  • Existing road system cannot cope with existing traffic
  • Existing rail service inadequate - trains packed in peak times and infrequent during off-peak
  • No major rail improvements expected within the life of the housing strategy
  • Per capita greenspace is declining
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