Low Rise Housing Diversity Code continues to threaten Blue Mountains

Since it was proposed in 2018, Blue Mountains City Council has opposed the State Government’s Low Rise Housing Diversity Code applying in the Blue Mountains. The Code threatens the environmental and character values of the Blue Mountains Local Government Area and the surrounding World Heritage National Park by applying a one-size-fits-all approach to development approvals, that provides greater development potential for developers by overriding local planning controls.

Under the Code, which came into force in the Blue Mountains in 2020, the overall size, site coverage and stormwater impacts of some types of medium density development are greater than would apply under local planning controls. The Code also allows for medium density development on lots that are smaller in size than would be permitted under local planning controls.

The Code also permits development that is out of character with the local area as evidenced by recent approvals including one dual occupancy approved in Blaxland (60 Old Bathurst Road) whereby a two-storey dwelling with a modern angular profile was approved in an area characterised by single storey dwellings with traditional pitched roofs.

A further concern with the Code is that development can be approved by private certifiers rather than Council, and without community consultation.

Blue Mountains Mayor, Cr Mark Greenhill, said: “Council has consistently sought a full exemption from the Code. This has been consistently declined by the State Government.

“The State Government has supported Council in establishing local variations to the Code which require lot size, floor space area and site coverage to be consistent with local planning controls. This is positive, but falls a long way short of addressing Council’s concerns with the Code.

“The private certification system has been shown to have serious flaws and Council is strongly of the view that medium density development in the Blue Mountains should be subject to community consultation and assessment by Council. Leaving the assessment and approval of such development with Council will ensure local planning controls are upheld and local character is respected.”

Stormwater management is one of the key concerns with the Code, as it contains no controls for the quality or quantity of stormwater leaving a development site. The importance of this issue has been highlighted by the impacts of recent severe weather events. The urban areas of the Blue Mountains drain into the surrounding World Heritage Area and ultimately into Sydney’s drinking water catchment.

“The management of stormwater on a plateau like this should be supported by best practice local stormwater management, as is required by our local planning controls,” Mayor Greenhill said.

“It is disappointing that the State Government have not recognised the importance of this issue and the need for stronger stormwater management controls to ensure best practice.

“Council continues to strongly urge the State Government to reconsider a one size fits all approach to planning policy and permit a full exemption from the Code in the Blue Mountains. We will continue to advocate for improved stormwater management for complying development.”

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