There’s been a never-ending stream of media coverage recently regarding the need for more housing and greater density, with many commentators apportioning blame as to who is responsible for the housing shortage.  Spoiler alert – apparently it’s the NIMBYs.
Could it be that the developer lobby is now so powerful it is able to skew the argument towards re-zoning and accessing precious Crown Land as being the only answer to increased housing?  But according to the latest census data, there were 1 million homes unoccupied on census night – 10 per cent of the total housing stock.
The latest incentives from Government to build new dwellings has been described as a ‘free for all’ for developers and there is every indication that suburbs like ours are in the firing line for not pulling our weight, even though we are expected to meet or exceed the dwelling targets set for our LGA. In this push for development there must also be an assessment of the ‘liveability’ of our cities and, in a changing climate, the natural environment that sustains us.
Sadly there appears to be no room in this discussion for considering the carrying capacity of our heritage suburbs, in order to preserve their charm and character for future generations.   Can we be really that short sighted that we are prepared to jeopardise layers of our history?
Some of the history we’ve already lost – modest well built single family homes set in established gardens – replaced by large single family homes built to the fence lines with little or no green space….

With regard to the claim that heritage is being used as a tool to block development, at our recent Members’ Evening & AGM, our presenter, Jane Alexander, The National Trust of NSW’s Advocacy Manager, debunked that particular myth with the fact that of the 3.5 million land parcels in New South Wales, less than 1% are listed heritage items!  As the National Trust presentation to the Heritage Act Review stated:

Our heritage places make a significant contribution to our identity, creating a sense of place and representing the State’s story, its people and its shared connections.  From buildings to landscapes, songlines to character areas, trees to shipwrecks – the heritage of NSW is important.

We were therefore disappointed to learn that Council was prepared to fast track the recent Planning Proposal from the Montefiore Home for rezoning their site, to allow increased building heights up to 28m and include ‘premium priced apartments’ – not residential aged care.  Council recommended to the Local Planning Panel that the Planning Proposal be forwarded to the Department of Planning and Environment for a Gateway Determination….’  thus pushing the Proposal through without proper consideration or adequate time to engage the community.
Thankfully the independent Local Planning Panel reflected community concerns and voted unanimously to reject Council’s recommendations and advised that more time was needed for assessment of the contextual understanding of impacts on similar aged care sites within the Municipality, and called for wider community consultation.
The unseemly haste by Council to get this Proposal for increased building heights approved before finalising the vital revision of the Local Environmental Plan, is very concerning.   It could set a dangerous precedent – but a Council open to increasing density may very well find that convenient.