HHT Submission to Council on the Draft Local Housing Strategy

Summary

Behind the analysis and proposals of the Draft Local Housing Strategy (dLHS) is an assumption that Hunters Hill housing density must increase. Certainly, Government has imposed a modest increase, and undoubtedly those who profit from development would support a greater increase, but this Strategy should satisfy the ‘needs and aspirations‘ of the residents. This draft Strategy fails to establish whether the residents of Hunters Hill seek more than the current continuing increase which alone will satisfy Government’s requests.

As observed in the Executive Summary of the dLHS, ‘Development in Hunter’s Hill will remain highly constrained and land/property is set to become increasingly unaffordable. A capacity assessment under existing planning controls reveals very limited ability to support new development across the majority of the LGA. These factors, combined with slow population growth and a relatively small population, mean that implied dwelling demand as assessed by NSW DPIE capacity experts remains low.’

In recognition of the predictions of the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) and the recommendations of the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC), the dwelling targets for Hunters Hill are modest relative to much of Sydney, and most will be achieved by continuing the current level of development. While Council is obliged to prepare a housing strategy it need not impose a greater increase than that suggested by Government, and should not use this opportunity to formalise the suggestions made in HH Local Strategic Planning Statement of 2019 (LSPS), and the draft Community Infrastructure Plan 2020 (dCIP); still in draft form.

Major shortcomings of the Strategy

  • The strategy fails to meet the Vision stated at its beginning (p4). The first paragraph of the Vision would apply to anywhere in Australia. And the strategy simply fails to satisfy the requirements stated in the second, namely to ‘retain its current low-scale urban form whilst prioritising the protection of heritage, significant built and natural environs and unique garden suburb character.’
  • The assumption that a great deal of higher density housing is required, when the requirements of Government are quite modest, and residents have not been consulted for their views.
  • Failure to discuss the constraints which give Council no direct ability to influence development in those parts of the LGA subject to the State Government’s Complying Development.
  • Failure to explain how or where in the Municipality ‘affordable’ housing and accommodation for ‘downsizers‘ can be achieved and be compatible with environmental improvement.
  • Failure to clarify Council’s intents for the Council Works Depot, recognised as one of the possible sites for redevelopment in the draft CIP, in spite of the possibility of it’s redevelopment being mentioned in that document.
  • Inclusion of the expansion of retirement accommodation and aged care in the Priorities and Actions of Section 6 in spite of stating that there are no available sites on which to locate them and there being no analysis of the number of existing retirement and aged care locations and capacity.
  • It is disturbing that the document is not identified as a draft (rather than an agreed document) because there is no backing for some actions stated as already completed. For example, the Introduction (Section 1.1) states that Council has consulted with ‘community housing organisations, seniors living providers and the Sydney Metropolitan Aboriginal Land Council (Metro LALC), yet the body of the document fails to reference or provide the content from these consultations, and simply states the intention to consult in the future.

Complying development

Thirty percent of the municipality lies outside the parts designated as Conservation Areas, and therefore outside the direct control of Council because it is subject to Complying Development. This sees modest-sized, single-storey family homes being replaced with large two-storey, family homes, not dual-occupancies or apartments, thus not altering the housing density but in many cases depleting the suburb of much needed tree canopy and green space. The implications of this need to be explored in the dLHS and a case made for some alternate thinking that encourages best design practices, preservation of scale and character of our suburb and innovation in providing additional accommodation, such as by sympathetic additions and  ‘granny flats’. The complying development laws are promoting unsustainable development that is impacting neighbour amenity and eroding the strong sense of community that Hunters Hill has historically enjoyed.

Ageing of the population

As shown in Table 4.1, forecasts for the population to 2041 show that while the total population will fall, the proportion aged over 54 years will increase by an average of 1% every 5 years, equivalent to 30 people entering this category each year. Some of these people will remain in their family houses, some will seek to downsize from family homes to places with easier access (e.g. the absence of steps or stairs), and some will seek to move to aged-care facilities. The suggestion (5.7.3) that shop-top housing could suit an aging cohort must be qualified by stating that this requires purpose-designed buildings (with level entries, and fitted with lifts for people who wish to live on top of shops).

Is there a need to provide additional housing in Hunters Hill?

As discussed in Section 4.3.4, DPIE figures suggest an additional 75 dwellings are required to meet projected population growth by 2041. There seems also a need for greater diversity of housing, which currently is not being satisfied under Complying Development in that part of Hunters Hill not under Council’s control.

The North District Plan of the Greater Sydney Commission (Section 4.3.5 and Table 5 of the DIPIEs ‘Hunters Hill data information pack’ states that Hunters Hill is on target to meet its requirements (projected 159 dwellings of a target range 150 – 200).

With these relatively small targets, the projected increase in housing will be catered for by developments already approved in Gladesville, and possible residential development of the Gladesville Hospital site – although this potential must be approached carefully to ensure the preservation of this location for future generations as well.

There is certainly no justification for the Actions envisaged in 6.2-Housing Priority 1, such as to ‘Focus mid-rise residential development on Gladesville Town Centre, Hunter’s Hill Village and Boronia Park’. Council should consider how it can preserve the character of Hunters Hill while enabling creative housing solutions – such as proposals to convert mansions into apartments that the suburb saw in the 1960s and 1970s that has left a legacy of beautiful heritage buildings and gardens but with increased housing capacity.

There still remains the requirement to provide greater diversity of housing, which will not necessarily eventuate under commercial conditions. Should Council decide to close permanently its Works Depot, it should open discussion of all possible uses for this site. Should it be converted to public open space, which is short in this part of the peninsular? Or rezoned for development as long-term affordable rental housing? This would provide a rare opportunity in an LGA described in the Strategy as having a ‘highly constrained, unaffordable property market’. Of course, this would reduce the sale price, and would require a watertight guarantee against it later being reclassified and resold into the general housing market, so creating a windfall profit for the then-current owners.

Section 6: Housing Strategy Implementation

Priority 1: Plan for additional housing in appropriate locations

The document equates Priority 1 to ‘Alignment with Hunter’s Hill LSPS Goals and Planning Priorities’, which are recognised as being to meet community needs and aspirations, stating that the Strategy should:

  • ‘Provide services and facilities within Hunter’s Hill to meet community needs and aspirations of the community’, and
  • ‘Provide land use planning framework to support community needs and aspirations’

But there is no reference to having determined the needs and aspirations of the people likely to live in the additional housing proposed by this Strategy. While their needs and aspirations could well include ‘a good level of residential amenity and connectivity via ready access to transport, shops, services and community facilities’, perhaps they also have other concerns that are incompatible with being crammed into high density, multi-storey living in an over-developed Hunters Hill Village, above a new supermarket in Gladesville, or on top of a shop in Boronia Park.

A major failing of this Strategy is that it gives little attention to that portion of Hunters Hill that lies east of the overpass. The nominal reason for this is concern about traffic congestion on the route leading down the peninsula, but this is purely peak-hour congestion, which is shared by Ryde Rd and Victoria Rd (see Section 4.4.4). Perhaps the underlying reason is that summarised by the statement that ‘Council is committed to maintaining the character, amenity and high environmental values that apply to the Hunter’s Hill peninsula, whilst allowing for some additional capacity in appropriate locations’. The Hunters Hill Trust acknowledges the special character of our part of Sydney but this is not limited to the peninsular. All of our through roads suffer peak hour traffic congestion, which can be reduced by enhancing other modes of transport such as cycling, walking and public transport. In summary, ‘character, amenity and environmental values’ are not confined to the peninsula.

Priority 2: Support housing diversity and housing affordability

Quoting the LSPS Goals and Planning Priorities, these aims are stated to be to:

  • ‘Provide services and facilities within Hunter’s Hill to meet community needs and aspirations of the community now and by 2040’; and
  • ‘Provide a caring and safe community where healthy activities are encouraged and promote a strong sense of community and connection among residents by 2040’

But the dLHS fails to identify the community’s needs and aspirations regarding housing diversity and affordability, and simply assumes everyone (including ‘shrinking household types, young families, those who wish to downsize’) wish to live in ‘one, two- and three-bedroom apartments’. Surely ‘diversity’ means more than everyone living in an apartment; this may coincide with the State government’s current view, but is one we are not obliged to accept.

It is difficult to see how Action 2.5 (‘Work with neighbouring Councils ...’) could improve affordable housing within Hunters Hill: it sounds more like seeking to transfer our responsibility to our neighbours.

Action 2.9 suggests ‘a sensitive upgrade of existing housing stock and a consistent approach to assessing proposals to older apartment stock and some older residential buildings‘, but doesn’t explain how this might increase diversity and/or affordability without reducing quality or degrading the environment. It is acknowledged, however, that older apartment stock is often better designed and built for amenity and preservation of green space than new apartments that just seek to maximise developer returns against the land acquisition costs.

Priority 3: Protect significant environmental values through sustainable developments and design quality of new developments

The aims to achieve sustainable development and design quality are stated to be to:

  • Create great places and streetscapes for people.
  • Facilitate and undertake sustainable practices.

The means to achieve these admirable but vague aims include to:

  • ‘investigate a design excellence bonus’; this is important, and could be combined with an Environmental Excellence bonus. But there would need to be a mechanism to provide some certainty that the measures permitted by the bonus were permanent.
  • ‘locate future housing away from environmental risk areas’, yet the proposed development of and around Figtree Park inevitably would degrade environmental values here through removal of tree canopy and green spaces which water absorption rather than run-off.
  • ‘address transport and parking”; intensive development inevitably leads to increasing traffic congestion, so should be kept away from areas such as Figtree Park, and Boronia Park shopping area, both of which are already currently congested centres is with limited provision for parking.

Priority 4: Encourage compatibility of new housing with existing local character and heritage

The aim of this Priority is stated to be to ‘Maintain and enhance the natural and built heritage character of Hunter’s Hill’, which, in turn is stated to be ‘a leafy established area with early garden suburb features and areas of urban bushland and scenic foreshore stretches that are highly valued by the community.’

Such an aim is welcomed but shifts the burden of development sought by Council through the proposals for:

  • ‘mid-rise apartment living’ in Gladesville, or
  • ‘buildings providing a 2-3 storey presentation to street’ in the Hunters Hill Village, or
  • ‘2-3 storey buildings in a strip shopping centre’ in Boronia Park

Protecting environmental values

While stated as an aim, no specific mechanisms are proposed to protect environmental values while increasing housing density. The reality of the euphemism ‘renewal of existing housing stock’ is the ‘knock-down-rebuild’ pattern that, under the heavy touch of Complying Development, currently is blighting all but the Conservation Areas of Hunters Hill (and even here heavy-handed change is being imposed). Inevitably, such ‘renewal’ is accompanied by the loss of open space and trees. Under complying development only 20% of the site area (as opposed to the original garden suburb rate of 50%) need be available to grow plants of any type, and replacing single-storey with multistorey structures exacerbates the impact on ‘environmental values’.

Conclusion

  • The document explains that the current rates of increase in housing will meet the requirements of both the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE), and the Greater Sydney Commission, (GSC),
  • The document contains no evidence that the community seeks increases beyond these,
  • Traffic congestion and parking are already recognised as problems in our tightly constrained municipality, yet the proposals would intensify these problems,
  • The only bodies likely to benefit from the proposed changes would be developers, and those (most of whom are not residents) who would benefit from demolition and construction.
  • Council should amend this proposal to meet only the minimum requirements of the DPIE.
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Another Year, Another Plan!

You may not be aware that HH Council has prepared a draft Local Housing Strategy (LHS) for community comment, for future dwelling targets up to 2041 – as required by the State Government.

The Trust is concerned that behind the analysis and proposals of the LHS, is an assumption that Hunters Hill housing density must increase.  Certainly, Government has imposed a modest increase, and undoubtedly those who profit from development would support a greater increase, but the Strategy’s stated first Housing Priority is to ‘meet community needs and aspirations’ (p46).  The LHS fails to establish whether the residents of Hunters Hill in fact wish for more than the gradual dwelling increase imposed by Government or to justify why Council is seeking additional development opportunities.

So we are asking why:

1.   Council is seeking development opportunities in excess of the dwellings required by the Department of Planning and the Greater Sydney Commission’s North District Plan.  The LHS appears to align with the development proposals contained in the recent Community Infrastructure Plan (CIP) with its particular focus on Figtree/Hunters Hill Village.

2.   Council has not updated the community on the responses to the CIP.  We do not believe the community wants greater dwelling targets and increased development adversely impacting the existing fabric of the Municipality – such as the major re-development mooted for Figtree Park/Gladesville Road.

3.   Council recognises ‘ongoing environmental impacts of increased residential densities ie traffic management’ but is still pursuing plans for additional development which will inevitably lead to increased traffic in already heavily congested areas.

4.   Council’s Community Infrastructure Plan and draft Local Housing Strategy both promote additional development when it appears we are already on track to meet our LGA’s dwelling targets.

You’ll find the full document on Council’s website just search for ‘Local Housing Strategy’ and Click here to view the draft Hunters Hill Local Housing Strategy .   At 81 pages, it is lengthy and somewhat complex, so we have extracted the relevant facts below.  Council acknowledges the significant discrepancy in the LHS between the Department of Planning and the Greater Sydney Commission’s housing forecasts, and has yet to clarify the dwelling types and actual numbers! (p32)

Department of Planning (DPIE)
a)  The population projection for Hunters Hill LGA has been identified to decline by 225 people from 2016 to 2041

b)  The implied dwellings required for Hunters Hill in 2041 is 5,621, an increase of 82 from 2016 (p32)

c)  With the limited capacity due to existing land use controls, DPIE’s housing projections indicate a growth of 75-82 dwellings by 2041 (p26)

Greater Sydney Commission (GSC)
a)  The GSC 2016 North District Plan also recognises the Municipality’s constraints derived from being an historic garden suburb with significant heritage, extensive bushland and foreshore reserves and over 70% within conservation areas.  

b)  Their target is for 30-32.5 dwellings per year between 2016-2036 (p32)

Even without the new multi-unit development planned for Gladesville Shopping Village, existing approved DAs along Victoria Road will provide 79 dwellings well before 2041 (p27).  In addition, over the last 5 years, Hunters Hill LGA has normally achieved 31.2 dwelling approvals and 27.4 dwelling completions p.a. (p25).  Therefore Council will have little difficulty in meeting the projected dwelling targets of both State bodies.

We hope the above will give you a snapshot of the LHS to allow you to have your say.  Simply email your views to Council at customerservice@huntershill.nsw.gov.au  (with ‘Draft Hunters Hill Local Housing Strategy’ in the subject line) or post to: PO Box 21, Hunters Hill NSW 2110.  Submissions must be received by 28 February.

Thank you for your continued engagement to ensure that Council’s multiple development plans for our heritage suburb are scrutinised and questioned!

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Our chance to protect our trees!

You may have already seen the good news that, for the first time since 2015, Council has opened the Significant Tree Register (STR).  You can now nominate your favourite tree/s or even a whole street or group of significant trees for assessment!  This is such an important tool to protect our green canopy as, now more than ever, we are losing so many of our mature specimens.  For example during just one month in November last year, Council approved individual DAs that in total allowed the removal of around 20 trees!

Access to the form is only open until 26 February so we would urge you to nominate your favourite trees ASAP.  Here is the link to click through to the Nomination Form and where you can view the current list  https://www.huntershill.nsw.gov.au/development/plans-policies-and-controls/significant-tree-register/

Email your form to council@huntershill.nsw.gov.au with ‘New Nomination for STR’ in the subject line and include your contact details or post to: General Manager, Hunters Hill Council, 22 Alexandra Street, Hunters Hill NSW 2110.

This is our chance to help protect our irreplaceable green heritage which is continually under threat!

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Hunters Hill Trust Journal, December 2020

The Hunters Hill Trust Journal Volume 59, No 2, December 2020 is available here.

As it is such an important new proposal, we have devoted this month’s Journal to providing information for members and the local community about the Draft Community Infrastructure Plan 2020 proposed by Council, which contains their ‘blueprint’ for our municipality for the next 10 years.

This edition includes:

  • From the President’s Desk –  with a summary of the major issues
  • The developments planned for the following locations:
    • Gladesville Road/Figtree Park
    • Town Hall, Council Administration Centre and Works Depot
    • Henley Precinct
    • Gladesville Commercial Centre
    • Special/Sole Purpose Facilities/Remnant Land
  • Our members’ views on the above proposals
  • The question of the $250m Public Spaces Legacy Program
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HHT SUBMISSION TO DRAFT COMMUNITY INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN 2020

A big thank you to everyone who took part in our survey.  We were delighted with the response and level of engagement and our Submission to Council, including a Position Statement of key messages drawn from your feedback is here.  


If you haven’t yet done a submission on the major changes proposed for our municipality, we would encourage you to do so, by the closing date of 9th November, to ensure your views are heard.  Email the General Manager, Mayor and Councillors at the following addresses: rosswilliams@huntershill.nsw.gov.aubencollins@huntershill.nsw.gov.auelizabethkrassoi@huntershill.nsw.gov.aujimsanderson@huntershill.nsw.gov.aujustinemclaughlin@huntershill.nsw.gov.auzacmiles@huntershill.nsw.gov.aumiscamblel@huntershill.nsw.gov.au

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DRAFT COMMUNITY INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN

We would like to bring your attention to Hunters Hill Council’s Draft Community Infrastructure Plan now on public exhibition and here is the link: https://www.huntershill.nsw.gov.au/participate/cip/

The Plan has a 10-year horizon, with short term actions and longer term projects built around “three key community hubs – The Village Green, Heritage and Cultural Facilities Hub and Lifestyle and Wellbeing Hub”.  At this stage we are being asked for our views on various proposals that will potentially change significant areas of our municipality.   For instance – in the absence of firm detail as to how the stated intentions for the Village Green (Figtree Park) Hub are going to be realised – the extent and number of facilities to be housed (including Council Admin moved from the Town Hall) plus an extra 1 or 2 new developments and associated parking will obviously have a considerable impact on the area with potential loss of trees and existing green space.

However to ensure your views are heard, email your feedback (subject Draft Community Infrastructure Plan 2020) to the General Manager and Councillors at: rosswilliams@huntershill.nsw.gov.au; bencollins@huntershill.nsw.gov.au; elizabethkrassoi@huntershill.nsw.gov.au; jimsanderson@huntershill.nsw.gov.au; justinemclaughlin@huntershill.nsw.gov.au; zacmiles@huntershill.nsw.gov.au; miscamblel@huntershill.nsw.gov.au

We feel it’s important to engage with the process and, as this 51 page document is rather difficult to read, a text-only version is here which, at just 20 pages, may be easier to digest.  Changes are being proposed for our beautiful Municipality and it is critical that our voices are heard so that we can all help shape its future.

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Hunters Hill Trust Journal, June 2020

The Hunters Hill Trust Journal Volume 58, No 1, June 2020 is available here.

This edition includes:

  • From the President’s Desk – Alister Sharp
    • Boronia Park Plan of Management
    • Revised Plan of Management for Riverglade Reserve
    • Council Matters
    • Oversight of Development Applications
  • Final Plan of Management for Boronia Park
  • The 1919 Influenza Epidemic in Sydney
  • DA Updates
    • The Lost & Found Department – 39 Alexandra St
    • ‘Windemere’ – 25 Ernest St
    • 61 Downing Place
    • Loss of Sandstone Kerbs
  • Vale Jack Mundey
  • AGM Report
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Loss of Heritage Sandstone kerbs

The Trust were shocked to discover the removal of a large section of heritage sandstone kerbing in Gladesville Road, alongside St Josephs College.  Astonishingly, this work has resulted in the replacement of the sandstone kerb stones with concrete and it is not known what has happened to the large blocks of hand hewn sandstone which have been removed.  This has drastically diminished the streetscape and setting for this landmark building.  Here is our letter to Council and please write to the General Manager Lisa Miscamble at miscamblel@huntershill.nsw.gov.au if you would also like to comment.

We now have an update from the General Manager at Hunters Hill Council who wrote that ‘the works were discussed with our Heritage Adviser at the time who advised that the sand stone gutter was not heritage listed, therefore appropriate infrastructure works could be undertaken.’   
However this does not explain what work necessitated their removal in the first place and ignores the fact that the kerbstones are ‘heritage’ items even if they are not ‘listed’.  In fact their removal goes against the Local Environmental Plan 2012 which states that one of the ‘particular aims’ is ‘to conserve Aboriginal heritage and European heritage that influence the character and identity of the municipality’.

Fortunately since the original travesty of the removal of the sandstone kerbs in Gladesville Road, it now appears the Council have reverted to putting them back in place once the road has been repaired thus maintaining our irreplaceable heritage streetscape.

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Dismantling The Powerhouse Museum

2 July 2020

What a win for the community! 

Finally some commonsense.  The Berejiklian government has done a backflip and the unique Powerhouse Museum, home to some 400,000 artefacts, will not be bulldozed and will remain in Ultimo!   As many of us have argued, the obvious and most cost effective option is for a new venue at Parramatta which is an opportunity to provide a second cultural centre to display more of the institution’s huge collections.  However the proposed building appears to be more of an ‘entertainment centre’ and the site is completely inappropriate, being on a flood plain. The government is also still apparently determined to demolish important heritage items to make way for it and dismissive of the green ban that the Union has placed on their demolition!  The Trust’s letter to Anthony Roberts is here.

Previous update:

There have been some very important news reports recently criticising the proposed relocation of the Powerhouse Museum eg last weekend’s article in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Continuing issues include:

  • the destruction of the site in Ultimo, so suited to the collection;
  • inadequacy of the design of the new space;
  • the perception that it will be a local entertainment space rather than a state museum;
  • concerns about the future safety of rare and precious objects, large and small;
  • blowout costs that cannot be tolerated when so many other community needs must be met;
  • continuing concerns about destroying heritage buildings in both locations.

If you would like to add your voice we encourage you to:


1.  Write to the Premier and your local MP – addresses at: https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/members/Pages/all-members.aspx


2.  Make a short submission to the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment here. https://www.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/major-projects/project/26576 objecting to the ‘new powerhouse’ design plan and the demolition of heritage in Parramatta. 

More details here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1YgnQWkgn0BF7tjM8JH1a2oEfQbBzhbnS/view

March 2020

A fresh parliamentary inquiry has been launched into NSW Government’s $1.5 billion plan to relocate the Powerhouse Museum to an inappropriate flood prone site in Parramatta,  Overwhelmingly the voices of the community have advocated to preserve the current site, build a new locally influenced cultural institution at Parramatta and use the funding saved from moving the Powerhouse Museum to create regional museums and galleries.  Given the project in Parramatta has now been declared a ‘State Significant Project’ we are concerned that the use of this legislation has only been enacted to enable the Government to override and ignore all reasonable opposition or community input and permit the destruction of local heritage.  Here is a link to The Trust’s submission to the Premier and political representatives to which so far we have had an acknowledgement but no detailed response.

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Boronia Park Plan of Management

The Trust remains committed to protecting, conserving and enhancing our heritage-listed Boronia Park.  Green space is so precious, especially in light of our current situation where parks have become a lifeline.  

The final consultant’s report on the Draft Plan of Management will be reviewed by Council on Monday 27 April and we will report back on the outcome.  Here is a link to the Trust’s submission to the 2019 Draft Plan and a Letter to Residents from the Hunters Hill Trust and Ryde-Hunters Hill Flora & Fauna Preservation Society.

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