The opportunity to review of the Local Environment & Development Control Plans (LEP/DCP) must be fully utilised in order to address some of the poor outcomes that are clearly visible in our LGA. There is a need for the terminology to be strengthened to mitigate the potential threats to our heritage and environment and to limit the damage that could be caused by Council’s failure to influence State Government’s planning reforms.
This means we need more than just a ‘housekeeping’ revision. There is an urgent need for specific wording to avoid erosion of our garden suburb and to prevent loopholes, that would potentially further destroy our streetscapes, arising under the E1 Zoning reform.
The assault on heritage, landscape, stone walls, tree canopy and garden areas over time has detrimentally impacted local character and amenity and the current trend towards ‘knock-down / rebuild’ residential development is altering the streetscape of Hunters Hill with oversized buildings and loss of garden settings. This LEP/DCP review needs to clearly articulate how critical it is that the unique layered history and values of our suburb be protected and enhanced.
In our letter to Council of 12 April regarding the Planning Reforms and LEP-DCP Review we documented all the issues that are at stake including the following:
- There must be no move to diminish the extent of the existing Conservation Areas. Any reduction would result in increased complying development leading to further loss of character. Conservation Areas must be entirely retained within their current protected status and boundaries, with investigation to further include heritage items (as undertaken by Woollahra Council), particularly those buildings not yet listed but identified in our publication “The Heritage of Hunters Hill’. The identification and role of ‘contributory’ buildings, from the early and mid-20th century, must also be fully acknowledged and valued.
- A ‘C4 Environmental Living’ zone must be introduced to provide greater protection from development on land adjoining high value conservation areas and sensitive foreshore.This could help address the worst excesses in some areas currently under complying development where the clear-felling of mature gardens is rife. The Trust has already suggested a process Letter to HHC re Tree Policies 11 Jan 2023 whereby staff could inspect complying development applications prior to approval to document mature trees and safeguard their preservation.
- The current controls over Height, Floor Space Ratios, Landscape Area, Bulk, Scale and Proportions must be strengthened to be compatible with the existing character of our municipality, with particular attention to the tendency for development to fill the maximum permissible building envelope in height and scale which is detrimental to the streetscape and the historical values of our garden suburb. The expectation that houses can be endlessly altered and enlarged is resulting in the cumulative loss of our built heritage and natural environment. Capitalising on the economic value of property must be balanced with the broader community benefit in protecting the aesthetics, character and vital green lungs of the area.
- Council must commit to ensuring that the requirement for 50%/60% landscaping is redefined to guarantee that hard surfaces, narrow paved setbacks, paths and swimming pools do not reduce the green planted area. The concept must be “houses set in gardens”rather than “buildings surrounded by landscaping”. The provision of substantial areas of deep and continuous soil for tree planting is also crucial to maintaining our tree canopy, a notable feature of Hunters Hill, and a major contribution to mitigating climate change.
- Council needs to strengthen the link between the LEP and DCP. There is a significant disconnect between the existing planning controls for new development, including additions, in the LEP and those in the DCP, the latter having very targeted goals and detailed requirements to conserve our character, heritage, gardens and landscapes.
- Council must commit to tightening controls that limit the extent of demolitions and the increasingly excessive amounts of geological excavation causing irrevocable damage to the unique natural topography.
- There must be stronger controls around garages and carports to both street and laneway addresses to preserve the existing streetscape – a major component of the DCP objectives.
- Consideration must be given as to how sustainability measures, eg solar panels, can be appropriately integrated within conservation areas.
- Local hydrology must be strategically managed to ensure storm water is captured as a resource where appropriate while also effectively structured to avoid flooding.
The intention at the 15 March public meeting for Council to include a commitment to adhering to the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development within the revised LEP/DCP, is a good start. These established principles must guide and strengthen the objectives to take account of environmental and sustainability imperatives in local planning and development.
The community is expecting a thorough Review of the LEP/DCP to further strengthen our controls – not a tick box exercise. Residents will be closely watching the outcome.