Balancing speedy development with community input

Noel Oxley
Noel Oxley

This month we’re considering the inherent conflict between balancing the need to streamline housing approvals by removing unnecessary bureaucracy, with allowing local residents to comment on developments adjacent to their properties.

The Trust acknowledges the need for more housing in Pennant Hills provided developments are sympathetic to the heritage and environment of our suburb, and allow for reasonable community input.

The Pennant Hills Town Centre master plan which Hornsby Council is now working through, is the vehicle to gather community input for what we want as the future of Pennant Hills, yet the Medium Density Housing Code which the State Government is considering, has the potential to override the community’s preferences.

The Medium Density Housing Code proposes that medium density housing, including townhouses, terraces, dual occupancies and subdivisions, be classed as Complying Developments and not be subject to the usual DA process.  

A Complying Development is a low-impact, routine development, such as a new dwelling-house or alterations to a dwelling-house including balconies, verandas and swimming pools The development doesn’t go before Council and the developer would hire a private certifier to approve and certify the development. There’s no opportunity for neighbours or anyone else to comment.

While reasonable for low impact developments, the concern of the Trust is that these creeping relaxations of controls may ultimately be applied to apartment buildings with all the detrimental effects this will have on the village nature of Pennant Hills.

Larger, higher impact developments should be subject to a full assessment and approval processes. The community must have a voice on major developments which change the character of our environment.

This is really important in evaluating the cumulative impacts multiple code-assessed dwellings have on local neighbourhoods, parks and community services. We have seen this already on a small scale in Pennant Hills; we don’t want it to become the norm.

The Trust believes

  • Complying Development should not be applied to medium density housing because it will increase the likelihood of poor design and amenity incompatible with local conditions; 
  • Development Applications should be retained for all medium density applications and local Councils should be the planning authority;
  • Medium density housing lots can be as small as 200 square metres. As part of the DA process, Medium Density proposals should address issues such as green space provision tree canopy and whether current infrastructure is adequate.

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