RetireAustralia Takes First Step Towards Redeveloping Caroline Chisholm Retirement Village

RetireAustralia has embarked on the initial stages of planning for the redevelopment of the former Caroline Chisholm Retirement Village.

The Caroline Chisholm Retirement Village is located at 40A Cope Street Lane Cove. The retirement village closed in 2017. The Caroline Chisholm Nursing Home is still operating.

RetireAustralia plans to develop the site into a Vertical Development that will include:

  • 93 dwellings in two buildings (29 independent living apartments and 64 assisted care apartments);
  • 10% will be provided as “affordable dwellings”;
  • Basement car parking – 24 spaces;
  • On-site dining, community and recreation facilities (including, bar, lounge, café, dining room/servery, gym, library, pool, cinema, outdoor terrace, roof top terrace and BBQ area, lobby and reception area, meeting rooms and general purposes rooms for hairdressers, beauticians, GP’s and other medical and health professionals); and
  • A bus will provide transport to and from Lane Cove Village;

The Independent Living Apartments will be either 1, 2 or 3 bedrooms.  All apartments are accessed via lifts and secured internal corridors. Each apartment will include a ground floor terrace or upper floor balcony.

RetireAustralia Development Manager Bill Clydesdale said, “We have been working closely with Lane Cove Council in these early stages to ensure the best outcomes for both the community and our future residents”.

Who is RetireAustralia?

RetireAustralia is jointly owned by New Zealand Super Fund and Infratil. RetireAustralia is an owner, operator and developer of retirement villages in Australia, with 27 retirement villages across New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia.

Current Zoning

The site is currently zoned under the Lane Cove Local Environment Plan (LEP) as R4 High Density Residential. This zoning permits a number of uses including residential flat buildings.  Seniors housing is not permitted on this site.  However the State Government can override the Lane Cove LEP by virtue of a planning instrument called a State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPP).

A SEPP is an environmental planning instrument that deals with matters of state or regional environmental planning significance.  The effect of a SEPP is that it can override a LEP.

In this case, seniors housing is prohibited on the site under the Lane Cove LEP, however under the SEPP, seniors housing is permissible.

Why Introduce a SEPP Seniors Housing?

The New South Wales government has a policy that older people, people with disabilities and those on low incomes should have access to affordable and well-designed housing.

To achieve this policy a State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP 5) was introduced to deal with housing for older people and people with a disability.

In March 2004, the Planning Department replaced SEPP 5 with a new policy focused on balancing growing demand for accommodation with maintaining the character and feel of local neighbourhoods – State Environmental Planning Policy (Seniors Living) 2004.

In September 2007, Amendment No 2 changed the name of the SEPP to State Environmental Planning Policy (Housing for Seniors or People with a Disability) 2004. It also introduced site compatibility certificates for seniors housing.

In October 2018, an amendment was made to change some rules for site compatibility certificates and to make the relevant planning panel the determining authority for site compatibility certificates issued under the Seniors SEPP.

Site Compatibility Certificates (SCC)

Retire Australia, has lodged a SCC, with the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (“Planning Department”)  The purpose of a SCC is to ensure development proposals are broadly compatible with surrounding land uses, before they proceed to Development Application (DA) lodgement, assessment and determination stage.

The Planning Department oversees issuing SCCs. Issuing a SCC does not mean that the development has been approved by the Planning Department and building will immediately commence – It’s only the first step in the assessment process.

A SCC is required for this development as the floor space for a “vertical village” is in excess of  the maximum floor space ratio applicable to the land in the Lane Cove Local Environmental Plan (LEP).

Should a SCC be Issued?

Retire Australia believes the site is suitable for a seniors housing development as it is located in a R4 High Density Residential zoning.

They point out that the neighbouring properties are high density residential developments.

RetireAustralia has submitted that public transport is available.  Locals will disagree with this point.  The 251 bus service only departs Cope Street in the morning from 6.16 am to 9.46 am.  Previously the 252 bus service stopped in Cope Street near Caroline Chisholm and at the corner of Cope Street and Penrose Street. Now to safely catch the 252 bus service, passengers must walk from Cope Street to the lights at Burns Bay Road and Cope Street, cross the road, and catch the bus.  Some seniors may not be able to walk this far (and it slightly uphill).   It is too dangerous to cross Burns Bay Road at Cope Street and catch a bus coming from Hunters Hill.

RetireAustralia has noted the site is close to a range of support services (which will be augmented by a village bus provided by RetireAustralia).  By providing on-site dining, community and recreational facilities and personal care services residents do not have to drive or catch public transport.

RetireAustralia by providing a shuttle bus and significant onsite services has reduce some of the traffic and parking issues.  Locals are concerned that Cope Street is very narrow and already the streets is packed with cars.  Any development must include sufficient parking for staff, residents and guests.

View the SCC application here.

Lane Cove Council’s Response

The Department of Planning just uploaded the Lane Cove Council’s response to the SCC.  This is and extract of the first five points (

Conclusion: Council raises the following concerns about the current application:

1. The proposed heights are inconsistent with the concept of a “transition” up from the adjacent 2-3-storey developments towards the nearby buildings such as 288 Burns Bay Road (which is itself 13m to 16m lower, than the proposed RL).

2. The proposed bulk and scale is excessive in terms of impacts on district views towards the site from the south, and impacts on the buildings in the immediate vicinity, among other issues of local character.

3. In particular, solar impacts on adjoining buildings to the south potentially caused by the current proposed design is considered unreasonable.

4. Existing traffic access, which must travel along Caroline Chisholm Lane, is a challenge for surrounding uses, and is to be further investigated and resolved.

Based on the above, Council considers that the proposed seniors housing development in its present form is incompatible with the surrounding environment and locality. However, a more measured approach to any proposed development in this densely populated area could lead to a more reasonable scale of impact.

Therefore, Council recommends that the following conditions should be addressed and should not proceed to the lodgement of a development proposal.

1. The proposed development be amended to reduce total GFA by at least 773.3m2 , in particular by weighting the height of building towards the west. This would be more consistent with surrounding developments, Council’s planning intent, and the intent of the Seniors Housing SEPP’s bonus clause.

2. The proposed development be amended to be more consistent with the dual building height limits applicable under LCLEP 2009, especially with regard to the amenity impacts on neighbouring properties, especially to the north and south.

3. The proposed bulk and scale of the buildings should be compatible with district views towards the site from the south, and shade impacts on the building to the south, among other issues of local character that arise from the departure sought to the building height. That is, demonstrate how the new buildings contribute to the quality and identity of the area. This refers in particular to design elements such as height, setback, solar access, etc. 4. The design of the building is not to compromise the privacy (visual and acoustic) of neighbouring properties.

Lane Cove Council made another 10 suggestions about how the plans can be changed – you can view the letter here.

Next Step If SCC Issued?

RetireAustralia advised ITC that the preliminary approval currently being sought through the Department of Planning will be followed by a more detailed planning stage which will include community consultation and the lodgement of a development application with Lane Cove Council.

Once Retire Australia lodges a development application with Lane Cove Council.  Neighbours will be notified and will have 14 days to submit comments on the proposed development.

Depending on the cost of the development, it will more than likely be assessed by the Lane Cove Local Planning Panel. If the development costs more than  $30 million it will be referred to a regional planning panel.

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