The future of the Northern Beaches



Northern Beaches Council recently released its Local Environmental Plan discussion paper. We explore some of its major issues, challenges and proposals.

The Local Environmental Plan (LEP) Development Control Plan (DCP) discussion paper and Local Housing Strategy was recently released by Northern Beaches Council.

The paper is to gather community thoughts on Council's future planning framework, which must align with the State Government’s Greater Sydney Region Plan and North District Plan. 

This shows the area needs to accommodate around 12,000 new homes – 3400 on the Northern Beaches – by 2036.

Council says the shortfall between what is needed and what is possible in the run-up to 2036 within current controls is around 275 dwellings, taking into account traffic generation, public transport, bushfire safety, environmental conservation, density controls and land acquisition.

The final draft, released mid-2022, will have a major impact on future planning in the area. and housing diversity, including housing types such as boarding houses, seniors housing and social and affordable housing, are also documented in the paper.

“There is no one size fits all approach here – we know local character is important, and that’s absolutely a key factor for us,” says Louise Kerr, director of Planning and Place at Northern Beaches Council.

“We’re not proposing to increase housing density beyond what’s already identified in our Local Housing Strategy.

“There are also no plans to increase heights in residential areas, but rather small height increases in some commercial and industrial zones to improve economic viability and to help retain jobs.”

An 800-metre radius around Manly Vale, Dee Why, Narrabeen and Mona Vale is being investigated for medium-density renewal, and Brookvale for medium to high-density renewal. 

Longer term, if a second B-Line to Chatswood goes ahead, areas such as Forestville and Beacon Hill could also be earmarked for medium-density renewal. 

At a recent Council meeting, Northern Beaches Mayor Michael Regan suggested placing the 275 new dwellings in Brookvale, and community members claim this would be preferable to large estates in places like Ingleside and Belrose, which are poorly serviced by public transport, stormwater infrastructure and at risk of bushfires.

“Council is the messenger rather than the body deciding that more houses are needed, but it now has to decide where these extra houses that the State Government wants are to be built,” says Kristyn Glanville, Greens candidate for Curl Curl and a professional environment and planning lawyer. 

“‘Greenfields development’, like the proposed Ingleside development and others, to develop undisturbed bushland or undeveloped land, would mean losing the ever-shrinking green lungs of our city and habitat for local wildlife. 

“Council will likely have to pay to maintain and build new infrastructure to service these new housing estates, such as maintaining extra footpaths, expanding garbage collection routes. 

“It will invite bushfire risks to those new homes.”

Glanville says it makes more sense to cluster development around where there is existing infrastructure to service those new homes, such as parks, schools, libraries, and convenient public transport so fewer people need to drive or own a car.

“Some of the new homes, for example, could, in theory, be accommodated along Pittwater Road where it would be serviced by the B1 bus service,” she adds.

“However, some areas around Pittwater Road are low-lying and potentially at risk of flooding. 

“It’s also important new housing does not encroach on our existing industrial areas, given how important these places are for local jobs and fostering local self-reliance.”

Council will make decisions about where to locate new development based on technical information around risks such as flooding, landslip, and bushfires. 

However, these technical reports haven’t been completed, “which makes it difficult for the community to judge the plans so far,” adds Glanville.

“My general feeling with this paper is that it’s more evolution than revolution,” she says.

“There are some promising changes being proposed, but also some potential missed opportunities for innovative thinking. 

“Ultimately, the things which the community finds frustrating and powerless about the planning system are not fixed and requires more fundamental reform to the state planning legislation.”

Graeme Jessup from Sustainable Ingleside Advocacy Group's (SIAG), says the Ingleside community believes its development could accommodate around 500 dwellings rather than the current proposed 980, providing adequate environmental measures were put in place.

“The main issue is the traffic congestion caused by the proposed 980 homes and the lack of adequate community facilities to serve them, such as schools and shops,” he says,

“The fire risk is also seen as a huge problem. The submission from our group, SIAG, mainly focuses on the lack of commitment to goals and commitments in Council’s own Environment and Climate Change Strategy.”

James Turner, a town planner from Dee Why, says there are innovative things Council could do to encourage high-quality development, such as bonus floor space available to developers if they can meet certain requirements.

“For example, if a developer was achieving a five Green Star rating, or getting very high standards on energy efficiency, waste and solar energy, they could actually put more on the site,” he says.

“Also, it would be good to encourage electric car charging stations and better internal waste reuse in big apartment blocks.”

Comments for the first round of the discussion paper closes on Sunday, September 5, and local residents can make their submissions via Northern Beaches Council’s website.

Further engagement will be provided towards the end of the current exhibition period, including geotechnical reports, and Council plans to exhibit this draft in mid to late 2022.

Niki Waldegrave, Contributor, Peninsula Living Magazine

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