Blue Mountains News

Council fights proposed planning rules that will significantly increase building heights across the Blue Mountains

By Blue Mountains City Council
Posted: 27 Jan 2024
Blue Mountains City Council is fighting proposed planning amendments that will see radical increases to building heights and densities that will not only increase the risk to residents, living in one of the most bushfire-prone regions in the world, but also to the unique World Heritage environment.

The State Government is planning to introduce significant changes to the types, densities and heights of dwellings permitted in low and medium density residential zones – changes at the state level unlike any we have seen for more than 20 years.

Building heights up to 21 metres (six storeys) will be permissible in all town and village centres across the Blue Mountains – from Glenbrook at the base of the mountains to Mt Victoria at the top.

“This housing reform package will override all local planning controls that we’ve put in place over the last 20 years to protect the Blue Mountains, which in turn protects our residents and our region’s unique biodiversity,” Mayor, Cr Mark Greenhill said.

“This Sydney centric approach ignores the significant bushfire risk in the Blue Mountains, proposing increases in housing density within bushfire prone areas, contrary to the policy position of the NSW Rural Fire Service. This not only puts more people in harm’s way, but completely ignores the increased risk of evacuating a larger population during a bushfire emergency.

“These proposed changes also disregard decades of nuanced placed-based planning by Council, in consultation with the community. They are an abuse of the State Government’s centralised planning power, overriding local controls and dismissing the views of local communities.”

Council met with Planning Minister, the Hon. Paul Scully, in July 2023 regarding planning reforms and had a very productive meeting.

“We know from that meeting that the Minister is sympathetic to concerns in the Blue Mountains,” Mayor Greenhill said. “We’ve also had a good meeting with the State Member, Trish Doyle, this week and she has committed to setting up a follow up meeting with the Minister. We are confident we will get a good hearing and we will report on this, to the community.”

The State Government released an outline of the new planning controls on its Planning Portal before Christmas, without any promotion, and have provided a February deadline for comment.

Council’s significant core concerns about the latest proposed planning reforms are:

  • Overriding local planning controls to allow residential flat buildings to a height of 16-21 metres (4 to 6 storeys) in all town centres and all Medium Density zones within 800m of a train station or town centre, across the Blue Mountains Local Government Area – from Glenbrook to Mt Victoria. This would be a non-refusable development standard.
  • Allowing larger dual occupancy development on small lots (450m2) in any zone where dual occupancies are permitted, even in areas located well away from town centres and railway stations, is completely out of character with the Blue Mountains and having no regard to stormwater runoff into the World Heritage Area.
  • Permitting medium density housing (multi-dwelling housing and manor houses) in the low-density residential zones near railway stations and town centres, with building heights of up to 9.5 metres (2-3 storeys).

“The State Government’s proposal is a drastic measure to address the current housing crisis but it includes no proposals for additional social or affordable housing,” Mayor Greenhill said.

“The proposed changes will only serve to allow more development in more places. It’s time the State Government start looking at real solutions for the housing crisis, like taxation and regulation of Airbnbs, because 10 years of overdevelopment in Western Sydney have done little to ease housing shortages.”

Mayor Greenhill said the Blue Mountains would be forever changed by the proposed planning control changes.

“These changes are grossly inappropriate for a City in a World Heritage National Park,” he said.

“The Blue Mountains has met and is on track to exceed agreed housing targets. Yet despite this, the draft proposal from the State Government shows complete disregard for the unique context of the Blue Mountains and the decades of strategic land use planning, which appropriately responds to our unique location.

“The State Government has made an error in proposing to include the Blue Mountains in this one-size-fits-all planning approach and we will fight it.”

 
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