An aerial view of residential homes at Katoomba

Low rise medium density housing code would undermine Blue Mountains local planning controls: Mayor

24 May 2018

Blue Mountains City Council will seek exemption, for the third time, from the State Government’s new Low Rise Medium Density Housing Code due to be introduced on 6 July, Mayor Mark Greenhill said.

Council has twice previously sought exemption from the new code, which will be added to the existing State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development), citing that the proposed policy bypasses local planning processes which includes meaningful engagement with the local community.

The Code introduces a pathway for complying development approval, for one or two storey residential land uses like dual occupancies, multi-unit housing, residential flat buildings, terraces and manor houses without having to comply with Council development standards.

Mayor Greenhill said: “The Code, as proposed by the NSW Government, overrides local planning controls and allows for increased densities, without the need for the Council to assess a development application and consultation with the community. Decisions will be made by certifiers based on “one size fits all” rules set by the Government.

“It would undermine our World Heritage Area status, eat away at our local village character and undermine our tourist economy.

“This may be a dream come true for over-developers but it is a nightmare for the Blue Mountains.”

Council has previously sought exemption from the new code, after Council resolutions to do so in February 2016 and November 2016. 

Given Council is yet to receive a formal response from the State Government, Mayor Greenhill will seek Council endorsement at the Ordinary Council Meeting on 29 May to seek exemption to the policy for the third time.

The Mayoral Minute will seek exemption given:

  • The Blue Mountains World Heritage Area status.
  • The Blue Mountains being classified as a “Metro Rural Area” by the Greater Sydney Commission, unlike most of Greater Sydney which is “Metro Urban Area” and more suitable for this type of Code.
  • Council meeting housing targets, which the Greater Sydney Commission recognised were lowest in the Sydney metropolitan area due to existing constraints.
  • The mismatch between Council’s strategic intent (recognised by the Greater Sydney Commission) and the densification of housing, as per the State Government proposal, and 
  • Given, historically, that the particular needs of the Blue Mountains have been acknowledged by the State Government in its Local Environmental Plan 2015, which is based on extensive engagement with the community.
  • Council will also seek a delayed commencement of the policy, as has already occurred in Lane Cove, Northern Beaches, City of Ryde and City of Canterbury-Bankstown.

Mayor Cr Mark Greenhill said: “Increased density means more hard surfaces and that means more run off down into the Nepean River.

“We are one of the only World Heritage cities upland from a river system and for this reason we demand a mandatory percentage of soft surfaces, allowing water to soak into the natural underground hanging swamps that sit below the Blue Mountains. 

“These proposed changes to Exempt and Complying Code means more villas, higher densities and the community getting no chance to have a say and to stop the loss of local amenity.

“We will continue to fight this.”

Photo: An aerial view of residential homes at Katoomba

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