Updated | Sutherland Shire Council given more time to prepare for new medium density housing code

Townhouse development in Caringbah South. The council submission said
Townhouse development in Caringbah South. The council submission said "recently completed development in reality is quite dense and stands in stark contrast to neighbourhood development". Picture: John Veage


The implementation of a new medium density housing code, from which Sutherland Shire Council is seeking exemption, has been further delayed.

Planning Minister Rob Stokes said the deferral for 45 councils, including Sutherland Shire, would be extended from October 31 this year to July 1, 2020.

Mr Stokes said an independent review had identified strong support for an increase in housing supply and diversity that the code was designed to provide.

It had also found that enhancing local character is important to the success of the code.

Mr Stokes said the further deferral would "allow those councils time to complete their strategic planning, including Local Strategic Planning Statements and Local Housing Strategies and update their LEPs, and identify and map areas of special local character".


Planning Minister Rob Stokes is poised to make a decision that could have a big impact on the bushy character of Sutherland Shire.

The shire's temporary exemption from the government's Low Rise Medium Density Housing Code is due to end on October 31.

Mr Stokes will decide whether to enforce the code or grant Sutherland Shire Council's request for a permanent exemption or shire-specific amendments.

He will be guided by the report of an independent review, chaired by Professor Roberta Ryan.

The council has warned the code will lead to "excessive" development and the government risks "a community backlash".

Sutherland Shire is one of only a few council areas where medium density housing is permitted in R2 zones.

The council considered banning it from R2 zones, but concluded the move would limit housing choice.

Under the code, townhouses, dual occupancies, manor houses (small flat buildings with three to four units) and multiple dwellings (terraces) is complying development in low density R2 and R3 zones.

Developers don't need to lodge a development application or notify neighbours as long as they meet the specifications in the code.

The council, which has firmly opposed the code since it was first proposed three years ago, has made a final appeal for permanent exemption in a submission to the independent review.

State MPs in the shire have been asked to support the plea.

The council said the code would allow much greater density than is permitted by the 2015 local environmental plan (LEP).

The council said developments would cover a larger area of building sites, intrude more on the privacy of neighbouring properties and reduce opportunities for planting trees, affecting the highly valued tree canopy.

"LEP 2015 permits both dual occupancy and multi-unit dwellings to a maximum floor space ratio (FSR) of 0.55:1, with a landscaped area of 35 per cent," the submission said.

"However, for a fairly standard 600 square metre block, the code allows a FSR of 0.75:1, coupled with a much reduced landscape area."

"Recently completed development in reality is quite dense and stands in stark contrast to neighbourhood development.

"Increasing density to 0.75:1 is simply excessive in our local context and risks community backlash to infill housing.

"In relation to dual occupancies in particular, this will deliver two very large, high value dwellings in each case, which will not add to housing diversity in the R2 zone where large dwellings already prevail."

The council said the code would do away with the present limitation on two storey development to no more than 60 per cent of the depth of a lot.

The code would also allow floor levels to 1.3 metres above natural ground, with associated privacy and bulk and scale impacts.

"The blanket application of the code and 'one size fits all' development provisions do not address the differing residential characters throughout Sydney," the submission said.

The council said residents had made it clear they valued the tree canopy and remnant bushland of the region.

"It provides links to the national parks and bushland reserves, and helps create a unique sense of place where residents are connected to nature," the council said.

"Remnant trees and canopy are invariably lost when low density single dwellings are redeveloped as dual occupancy or multi dwellings.

"The code will reduce opportunity for canopy planting by reducing rear setbacks to three metres and only requiring 25 per cent of a frontage to be landscaped.

"This will simply leave too little space with deep soil to achieve trees capable of offsetting the scale of development and providing canopy.

"The outcome will erode local neighbourhood character and the many benefits of urban tree canopy.'

The submission said the shire community was "experiencing erosion of amenity as congestion on the state road and rail networks grows".

"Our community is also growing increasingly concerned about the pace of change and the impacts of increased density locally, which is expressed as visual intrusion of building bulks and privacy impacts, tree loss and change to streetscape character," the council said.


Sutherland Shire is "comfortably" meeting the housing target set by the state government.

The council said the Department of Planning had argued the code was necessary to deliver medium density housing.

However, as the 2015 LEP was delivering housing diversity, with a strong supply of medium density development, the code was not necessary.

A table was provided, showing since 2016, nearly 7000 new dwellings were approved across the shire, with another 1408 dwellings pending determination.

"Over 30 per cent of these are dual occupancies, townhouses and secondary dwellings located in low density residential zones," the submission said.

"Council will comfortably meet the 2016-2021 housing target set by the South District Plan of 5200 dwelling completions.

"It is considered premature to introduce the code before council has had an opportunity to complete its next round of strategic planning."