Blue Mountains Posts

BMCC Condemns State Government for Failing to Apply Housing Code Exemption

By Blue Mountains City Council
Posted: 24 Apr 2021
Mayor Mark Greenhill
Blue Mountains City Council has condemned the State Government for failing to issue the Blue Mountains with an exemption from the Low Rise Housing Diversity Code (formerly the Low Rise Medium Density Housing Code).

Council has opposed this housing code since its proposed introduction in April 2018, given it overrides the City’s own local planning controls and allows for substantial residential development, including medium density, without the need for a complete development assessment.

Blue Mountains Mayor, Cr Mark Greenhill, said: “We have fought hard to keep such a proposition out of the Blue Mountains and have been seeking an exemption from the Code for almost three years.

“Despite meetings with the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, confirmation of the Council’s compelling case for exemption and assurances from the Department of Planning, Industry & Environment of an acceptable planning solution, no exemption has been provided. Now – in correspondence this week – the Planning, Industry and Environment Department says they will not release the City from this inappropriate framework.”

Council argued that the Metropolitan Rural Area (a state government classification given to the Blue Mountains and other low density areas) could form a basis for an exclusion from the Code, similar to the exemption in State Environmental Planning Policy (Housing for Seniors or People with a Disability) 2004.

But the State Government has rejected that submission.

“The code poses an unacceptable risk to the environmental values of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area as it allows for substantial growth in residential development, resulting in significant increases to storm water run-off into the fragile environment. It will increase development and cram more people into our bushfire prone City, and this is just madness. Such a move places people at risk and places more pressure on our emergency services.

"The Code will also erode the built character elements that define our towns and villages. This – and our unique natural environment – are the reasons why people visit our City.  This code jeopardises our City, its World Heritage setting, and our local economy.

“The Blue Mountains is not just another suburb of Sydney and the government need to get on board with this fact.”

At the Council Meeting on 25 May 2021, the BMCC elected body will consider a planning proposal (amendment to the Local Environmental Plan) to secure exemption to the low rise code. If endorsed by the Council, this planning proposal will be submitted to the state government.

This follows confirmation from the Blue Mountains Local Planning Panel of unanimous support for the Council’s exemption case.

“The government has a clear agenda in regards to development, but we will not accept this housing code for our City,” Mayor Greenhill said. “We will also continue to express our dismay over the extent and nature of planning reform being proposed by the government and the erosion of planning at the local level.

“There is a total lack of recognition for our State Government-endorsed Blue Mountains Local Strategic Planning Statement and the unique status of the Blue Mountains.”

A report to the 27 April Council Meeting also provides advice on four proposed state planning reforms currently on public exhibition by the NSW Government:

  • Draft Design and Place State Environmental Planning Policy (Design & Place SEPP)
  • Amendments to agricultural lands/activities and agritourism
  • Amendments to clause 4.6 of the standard instrument – exceptions to development standards, and
  • Amendments to complying development for industrial and commercial development.

The item in the Business Paper states:

“Council is increasingly having to respond to an extraordinary quantity of State Government policy proposals and changes. Historically, changes to the planning system were infrequent and subject to significant consultation. Currently, it is not uncommon for multiple proposals and changes to be released concurrently, often exhibited with limited consultation and short exhibition periods. Some of these policy changes are minor, however many involve significant, fundamental reforms to the planning system. This results in a cumulative impact and administrative burden on councils to interrogate substantial exhibition material and prepare business papers and submissions in response, in order to advocate on behalf of their communities and best practice planning.

“Arguably, while some of the proposed reform may appear acceptable at face value when considered in isolation, the cumulative impact of piecemeal changes cannot be overlooked. Many of these reforms seek to “remove red tape”, resulting in fewer matters being subject to the impartial scrutiny of the planning scheme. Broadly, many of these reforms incrementally pull more and more development types into an exempt and/or complying development category through State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 (Codes SEPP), removing the ability for Council to effectively address local level needs through merit based development assessment, or even to set controls that respond to local context.”

 
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