Media release - Councils welcome planning platform announcement

18 February 2019

A pledge to restore the opportunity for local communities to help determine the nature of their own neighbourhoods has been welcomed by the local government sector.

Local Government NSW (LGNSW) said the announcement than an ALP State Government would scrap the mandatory application of the Medium Density Housing Code was a win for common sense and would help prevent character destruction across a range of suburban neighbourhoods. Medium density housing includes dual occupancies, town houses, terraces and manor houses (unit blocks of two up and two down).

“There’s nothing wrong with medium density housing, as long as it is well-designed and is an appropriate fit with its neighbours,” said the peak body’s President, Linda Scott.

“The real problem here is a code that allows medium density buildings to be thrown up by developers and then privately certified, without any input by the community or council.

“And when that code is imposed across-the-board – as intended by the current NSW Government – you are really forcing a one-size-fits-all deal that has the potential to dramatically change the way neighbourhoods look and function. “

Cr Scott said the mandatory application of the Medium Density Housing Code undermined the detailed community consultation and strategic planning process undertaken by councils, which results in the preparation of Local Housing Strategies, Local Strategic Planning Statements and Local Environmental Plans.

“Councils acknowledge there is a very real need to plan for a diverse range of housing to meet changing needs and population growth,” she said.

“They’re willing to provide opportunities for medium density housing that enhance local character and align with services and infrastructure. 

 “The current Government actually recognised this by deferring the imposition of the Code in 50 local government areas, to allow the strategic planning process to be completed.

“That was a temporary delay; this is a much more sensible long-term approach.”

Cr Scott said LGNSW had consistently argued that councils, in consultation with their local communities, were best placed to determine the form and location for medium density housing in their area.

“We have lobbied both sides of politics over this issue for a long, long time; arguing loud and long that a cookie-cutter approach does not deliver well-designed housing compatible with local character.

“We were grateful that the current NSW Government listened and called a temporary and partial halt, and we are equally grateful that the Opposition has now made it part of their state election platform to extend that to a permanent halt.”

Cr Scott said the most effective planning framework would allow local communities, through their elected local representatives, to determine where new medium density housing would be delivered and apply merit-based assessment to medium density development.

“This process can and should be a win for everyone: a win for the community; a win for developers who benefit from the protection of the local character that attracts buyers to a location in the first place, and a win for councils that can be satisfied they have delivered the sensible development their ratepayers support.”

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