Developers have acquired around 90 properties in St Leonards South with the hope that the area would be rezoned as higher density residential development. Family homes were to be demolished, and over 2400 apartments in towers up to 19 storeys high were planned. Developers could not proceed until Lane Cove Council rezoned the area and developed a St Leonards South Master Plan (“the Plan”).
Developer’s plans are now in doubt after the Independent Planning Commission (“Planning Commission”) released a report on Wednesday stating the Lane Cove Council’s Plan will result in overdevelopment. You can read the full report to Planning Minister Rob Stokes here.
The Planning Commission also found no rezoning of the site is required to meet the Greater Sydney Commission’s current housing targets under its Northern District Plan as the housing targets are currently likely to be exceeded without the proposed delivery of a further 2,400 dwellings.
The Planning Commission also stated that there is the potential for a monolithic street wall effect along the east-west pedestrian walkways if the rezoning is to proceed.
The Lane Cove Council’s Plan has been very unpopular with local residents. The Greenwich Community Association has consistently said the plan would add thousands of residents to the St Leonards area creating traffic congestion and pressure on essential services. They have also noted lack of open green spaces. Whenever the St Leonards Plan has been before a Lane Cove Council meeting, the public forum is packed. The Greenwich Community Association has stated the plan was devised by Lane Cove Council with very little consultation with the community.
On 13 July 2015, Lane Cove Council resolved to amend and adopt the St Leonards South Master Plan. It also resolved to amend the Lane Cove Local Environmental Plan to permit the rezoning of a portion of the precinct up to Park Road (east-side) for the purposes of higher density residential development. As part of the rezoning, there is provision for two community facilities, child care centres, open space, shared green spines, east-west pedestrian/ cycle connectivity, key worker housing and a link road.
Under the Lane Cove Local Environmental Plan 2009 (Lane Cove LEP), the site is currently zoned R2 Low Density Residential. It is surrounded by B3 Commercial Core and B4 Mixed Use zoning to the north along the Pacific Highway and Marshall Avenue, R2 Low Density Residential zoning to the south across River Road, R4 High Density Residential to the east and R2 Low Density Residential to the west across to Greenwich Road.
In May 2016, a planning proposal was submitted to the NSW Planning Department for Gateway determination.
On 2 September 2016, the NSW Planning Department issued a Gateway determination with conditions, which included that, prior to finalisation, Lane Cove Council’s planning proposal “is to be amended to demonstrate consistency with available findings of a draft or final strategic planning review for the St Leonards and Crows Nest Station Precinct”.
On 20 December 2018, the Independent Planning Commission of NSW received a request from the then Minister for Planning Lane Cove’s local member Anthony Roberts to provide advice and consider conducting a public meeting as part of consultation for the St Leonards South Residential Precinct planning proposal.
The Minister sought advice from the Commission on specific matters including:
- “the consistency of the planning proposal with the overall vision, guiding design principles, and specific design principles of the Department of Planning and Environment’s (Department) draft St Leonards and Crows Nest 2036 Plan (draft 2036 Plan)”;
- “the scale of residential development contained in the planning proposal and whether the whole site needs to be rezoned to meet housing targets identified by the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC)”; and
- “whether some staging of the planning proposal is appropriate”.
A public meeting was held by the Independent Planning Commission. It was attended by developers and numerous concerned citizens (including medical staff from Royal North Shore Hospital).
Developer’s Submissions to the Planning Commission
Representatives of various developers with an interest in the site presented at the meeting and urged the Planning Commission to allow the Plan to proceed as quickly as possible, submitting the following:
- The planning proposal is wholly aligned with key metropolitan strategic planning objectives;
- The planning proposal has the potential to deliver substantial housing supply and infrastructure benefits;
- The planning proposal will provide additional dwellings in a strategic location with excellent access to employment and public transport;
- The planning proposal is consistent with the vision and design principles of the draft 2036 Plan and has strategic and site-specific merit;
- The planning proposal lacks flexibility (including with respect to the proposed lot amalgamations) due to the proposed exclusion of the application of Clause 4.6 of the Lane Cove LEP to the site; and
- Staged release of the site is not necessary or appropriate.
Resident’s Submissions to the Planning Commission
Precinct residents, local area residents, representatives of community associations and local professionals urged the Commission to reject the planning proposal for the following reasons:
• The planning proposal would represent an overdevelopment of the area;
- The planning proposal would cause further traffic and car parking congestion;
- The planning proposal would cause additional overshadowing of Newlands Park and overshadow the proposed new park between Park Road and Berry Road;
- There is insufficient public open space provision in the planning proposal;
- There is a lack of nearby school capacity;
- There is a lack of health infrastructure capacity;
- The planning proposal would impact upon heritage properties adjacent to the site; and
- There are inconsistencies between the planning proposal and the draft 2036 Plan.
Lane Cove Council
The Lane Cove Council has released the following statement:
“The Independent Planning Commission (IPC) yesterday handed down its advice in relation to the St Leonards South Precinct plan, which is designed to enable the delivery of 35 percent of the dwellings proposed in the state government’s St Leonards Crows Nest 2036 Plan.
The future design of the St Leonards South precinct has been under consideration since 2012.
The design which was referred by the Department of Planning to the IPC in 2018, was developed in consultation with the community, NSW Department of Planning and relevant government authorities over a six year period.
The NSW Department of Planning commenced its planning for the area in 2015 which culminated in the 2018 Draft St Leonards Crows Nest 2036 Plan, which includes the current design for the St Leonards South Precinct.
Mayor of Lane Cove Pam Palmer said “Council deferred further consideration of the area in March 2018 until feedback from the Department could be taken on board before any final decision was made.”
“The whole process has been consultative and collaborative, and we wanted to ensure all information was available before making any decision on this important precinct,” Cr Palmer said.
“Detailed and considered planning went into creating this plan along with extensive community consultation to ensure increased open space, and high levels of residential amenity and liveability.
“We accept the Independent Planning Commission has raised concerns with the proposed design.
“It’s our understanding this advice will now go forward to Minister Stokes for consideration in the finalisation of the state government’s St Leonards Crows Nest 2036 Plan.
“The Commission seemed particularly concerned about the lack of open space in St Leonards South despite it exceeding the Department of Planning’s Guidelines and delivering 1.6ha of new open space which is 73 percent of all new open space in the Draft St Leonards Crows Nest 2036 Plan.
“Clearly there is a difference of opinion between the Department of Planning and the IPC which Minister Stokes will need to address,” Cr Palmer added.”
Greenwich Community Association
Merri Southwood on behalf of the Greenwich Community Association told ITC:
We were very impressed by the level of transparency around the IPC process, with all submissions and supporting reports available for viewing on the IPC website. We were pleased that the IPC has raised concerns around inconsistencies with the 2036 Plan that align with the GCA’s concerns.
The GCA and community members raised other issues of concern around SLS not covered by the IPC report but we understand that the IPC had to stick to its terms of reference.
An important issue that was alluded to in the report but could not be addressed in detail by the IPC was the fact that two economic feasibility reports by Council’s consultant, HillPDA, clearly indicated that the plan was not deliverable, given the prices paid by developers. The first of these reports was provided to Council before Council lodged the plan for Gateway Determination in May 2016. Notwithstanding these reports, Council proceeded to prosecute the planning proposal.
Council has consistently stated since October 2017 that the SLS housing stock was required to meet Lane Cove’s housing targets. All the data we could find indicated that Lane Cove had well and truly met and exceeded the stock required under the only mandated target and that future targets would be established only after the development of a housing strategy.
The IPC is very clear on this.
We note that a media release issued by Council states that SLS “is designed to enable the delivery of 35 percent of the dwellings proposed in the state government’s St Leonards Crows Nest 2036 Plan”.Council has not previously offered this as an explanation of the need for SLS. We understand that the 2036 Plan includes job targets but not housing targets. There are projections of housing numbers, not targets, and these have been used to assess infrastructure needs and capacity to meet infrastructure costs.
Pending any resolutions passed at the next GCA general meeting on 21 August, the GCA’s resolution of December 2017 remains:-
The GCA calls on Councillors to resolve to:
- Cancel the Master Plan and put the community first, including by providing community consultation and not allowing more density without more infrastructure.
- To include consultation with residents in all of East Ward that have been excluded to date and work with (i) the whole community, (ii) other LGAs and (iii) NSW government authorities ; and
- To formulate a sustainable and liveable precinct that does not place unacceptable pressure on the infrastructure, amenity and character of Greenwich and all other areas included in the St Leonards/Crows Nest Planning Precinct.
Given the IPC advice, this course of action seems appropriate.
NSW Department of Planning
A Spokesperson for the NSW Department of Planning told ITC:
The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment is reviewing the Independent Planning Commission’s report into Lane Cove Council’s planning proposal for the St Leonards South Residential Precinct.
The Department will consider the Commission’s advice in the preparation of the final plan for St Leonards and Crows Nest.
Lane Cove Council will also be given an opportunity to consider its position on the planning proposal in light of the Commission’s advice.
The Department respects the differing views within the community and will continue to listen and work with all to ensure ongoing consultation.
Chris Johnson who is part of the Urban Taskforce (a non-profit organisation representing Australia’s most prominent property developers and equity financiers) has written an article in The Property Observer commenting that the Independent Planning Commission’s report is about stopping new developments around railways stations to respect local character. Not once did he mention the planning commission said the plan would result in overdevelopment. You can read his article here.
The Planning Commission’s report has not scuttled the Plan. The NSW Department of Planning and the Minister for Planning will need to review the report; as will Lane Cove Council.
Lane Cove Council is not bound by any decision of the Independent Planning Commission. However it would be a brave council that went ahead with the Plan without taking into account the Independent Planning Commission’s findings. Residents have consistently said that redevelopment is inevitable, but it must be done without a burden on infrastructure, traffic congestion and consistent with the neighbourhood character. In fact the Commission stated that, while redevelopment of the area is not inappropriate, the scale of development proposed under the planning proposal would be out of character with the remainder of the St Leonards South Precinct and surrounding neighbourhoods.
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