Townhouse project at Caringbah 'rushed to beat privacy law change'

Carol Provan says a proposed townhouse project at Caringbah is the worst case of medium density overdevelopment she has seen during 18 years on Sutherland Shire Council.

Under the plans, seven two-storey townhouses would extend the full length of two narrow, back-to-back blocks and overlook the backyards of five adjoining homes.

There are also traffic concerns about the site in Gannons Road, about 100 metres from the Captain Cook Drive roundabout.

Cr Provan and Cr Michael Forshaw are supporting residents who are appealing for the development application (DA) to be refused when the Sutherland Planning Panel considers it on September 18.

They believe the DA was rushed to beat the impending reintroduction of the 60/40 rule.

The rule aims to protect the privacy of neighbouring backyards by restricting the second storey in such developments to the front 60 per cent of the block.

The council decided in November, 2016, to reintroduce the rule, which did not become law until early August, 2017.

The DA was lodged in March, 2017.

Written submissions to the panel said the DA lacked shadow diagrams and other important information, while including “basic errors” about matters such as boundaries, street names and bedroom numbers.

The applicant’s name had also been changed at a late stage in the process.

Residents said council staff should have rejected the DA but, instead, the applicant was asked to provide further information.

A deadline set by the council for the information to be provided was not enforced.

Cr Provan said in her submission the developer would have been aware of the imminent rule change and that it would normally take three to four months for a local environmental plan (LEP) amendment to become law.

“I believe they rushed the DA in to beat the system,” she said.

“Although we cannot give neighbours complete privacy, this DA gives them no privacy,.

“This is definitely an overdevelopment of the site and the worst case I have seen as a councillor.”

Cr Provan said Gannons Road was a major thoroughfare  and the traffic volume would increase when the rail underpass was widened.

“With many of the townhouses four bedrooms, it is likely there will be more than 20 cars from this development exiting onto Gannons Road in an already dangerous situation,” she said. 

“This area is a bottleneck with the Sharks development and we don’t know yet what is likely to be proposed for the Toyota site.”

Cr Michael Forshaw told the Leader it was “a pretty ordinary development”, and I am not happy about a number of things, including traffic issues and the long narrow block”.

“Given the background, it would have been preferable for the DA to have been rejected and the applicant required to resubmit it,” he said.

“Technically, I think the fact that it wouldn’t get up now [under the 60/4 rule] is a strong point to say it’s not a suitable outcome.”

Resident Michelle Evans said the applicant would have been aware of the imminent rule change and “rushed the DA to opportunistically beat the system”.

“The council did not follow its policy by accepting this incomplete and non-compliant application,” she said.

Ms Evans said the council gave the applicant many concessions while progressing the DA, including not enforcing a deadline to provide documents.

A council spokeswoman said the DA was “submitted before the 60/40 rule came into effect, and had been assessed under the standards that applied at the time of its submission”. 

“The person listed as ‘applicant’ on a DA can be changed without the need for resubmission of the DA,” she said.

“Requesting further information or clarification is common practice after DAs have been submitted, as was the case with this application. 

“Council can only reject a development application within 14 days of lodgement under specific circumstances.”