NSW Land and Housing Corporation Concept Plans for 20 Mindarie St Lane Cove North Development

The NSW Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC) is proposing to redevelop three properties at 20-22 Mindarie St and 30 Pinaroo Place.  It will be a 21 m high Residential Unit Building with 31 units (nine one-bedroom units, 14 two-bedroom units and eight three-bedroom units) and parking for 52 cars.

There are currently three homes on the site (built in the ’50s and ’60s).  They will be demolished.  Mindarie Street is a narrow street, where parking is complicated. It’s become more popular with the Mindarie Park Playground.

Land and Housing Corporation Concept Plans – Little Detail

The redevelopment of the site is part of the NSW Government Communities Plus program, which seeks to deliver developments where social housing blends with private and affordable housing, with good access to transport, employment, improved community facilities and open space.  This sounds good in principle.

However, LAHC has only lodged a concept plan.  The plan shows a building envelope but does not provide any details about the mix between social housing and private, affordable housing.

The Statement of Environmental Impact (lodged with the original concept plan) states:

“Effectively, the proposed envelope is the ‘container’ within which a future building will be designed. Accordingly, the concept envelope sought for approval reflects the maximum development scheme that could be supported on the site, whereas the indicative scheme has been tested to validate that a building within this envelope will still achieve the desired built form and FSR with acceptable amenity impact.

The proposed building envelope will comprise residential apartments only, with a mix of private and social housing.

The Concept Proposal is consistent with the North District Plan in that it will:

  • contribute to the delivery of 25,950 homes in the next five years, and specifically, the Lane Cove target of 1,900; (ITC note: The Sydney North Planning Panel stated that Lane Cove Council has already exceeded these targets.  Read More here.)
  • deliver diverse housing typologies to meet the needs of changing communities;
  • provide housing for those on moderate incomes and affordable rental housing for low and very low-income households; and
  • is proximate to public open space, essential services and facilities that will service the residents and assist with the ’30-minute city concept’.

The State Environmental Planning Policy (Affordable Rental Housing) 2009 (ARHSEPP) applies to any new affordable rental housing in NSW with the aim of providing effective delivery of new affordable rental housing through incentives such as expanded zoning permissibility, floor space ratio bonuses and non-discretionary development standards if certain criteria is met.

The development will provide a balanced mix of apartments in a highly accessible location, earmarked for multi-unit development under LCLEP 2009. The site represents an ideal opportunity to move away from the former ‘housing estate’ model for LAHC, and towards integrated communities with better social outcomes, which is a key driver of the concept plan. It represents the pioneering concept of blending social housing with private and affordable housing, to create a strong, integrated and resilient community with good access to transport, employment, community facilities and open space.”

A spokesperson for LAHC provided the following comments to ITC:

“The NSW Land and Housing Corporation continue to work closely with the council and all members of the community.

The Lane Cove development involves a two-step process starting with an initial Concept Plan approval, which is what is being sought at this point.

If the Concept Approval is approved by the Sydney North Planning Panel, LAHC’s partner BlueCHP (a not for profit Community Housing Provider), will submit a detailed development application for the site.

The proposal will ensure it delivers on the vision for the site, which includes a mix of social (about 30%), affordable and private homes that compliments the urban character of the area.

The development application will follow the standard process, and the community and council will provide further feedback on the proposal.”

Residents Are Concerned

The concept Plan was put on display for public comment and neighbours and the Stringybark Creek Residents Association objected to the plan on the basis that the building exceeds the height limits for this area, overshadows neighbouring properties, privacy, traffic and parking issues.

Residents were most concerned that the increased building height was being justified on the basis of social and affordable housing without providing details about the mix between social housing and affordable private property.

Another Lane Cove North development listed as a Community Plus Project is 586-592 Mowbray Road.  The Development Application was lodged by Hyecorp Property Group and made no mention of social housing. It seems this development is funding LAHC public housing in another area.

Guy Hallowes President of the Stringybark Creek Association told ITC that the current planning system is flawed.  Lane Cove Council and planning panels do not have to take into account other residential developments in the street – such as two applications for Boarding Houses at 47 and 51 Mindarie Street.  The Lane Cove Planning Panel has knocked back the boarding houses and the developer has lodged a Land and Environment Court appeal which will be heard this week.  Further details here.

Mr Hallowes also said this development was unfair on the people who had purchased the neighbouring properties from the Land and Housing Corporation.  These houses are zoned E4 Environmental Living.  The purpose of this zone is to

  • provide for low-impact residential development in areas with special ecological, scientific or aesthetic values.
  • ensure that residential development does not have an adverse effect on those values.

The planned development is in an R4 Zone right next to this zone.  Mr Hallowes said: “When you purchase an E4 zoned house from an NSW government body, you don’t expect that they will build a massive development next door, without giving you some warning.”

Matter Referred to the Sydney North Planning Panel

The proposed development has a Capital Investment Value (CIV) of more than $5 million so the Sydney North Planning Panel is the relevant determining authority based on the CIV being over $5 million. Lane Cove Council has also agreed to enter into Voluntary Planning Agreement where a parcel of land will be transferred to the Lane Cove Council for a park.

The Sydney North Planning Panel held a hearing in October 2019.  Not surprisingly, the Panel was reluctant to make a decision on increased height when so little detail had been provided.

One panel member questioned if there could be no social housing on this site and the property was only be used to generate capital for other social housing projects.  One panel member stated that she (or the chairperson of the panel) should write to Minister as she was seriously struggling with this proposal which seemed uncertain and unjust.

An LAHC representative told the panel that a tender had been issued and contracts exchanged for a community housing provider.  He mentioned there would be nine units – just under 30% for social housing.

The panel unanimously voted to defer determination

Sydney North Planning Panel – Public Hearing

The Panel is meeting on Wednesday 27th May 2020 at 2.30 pm to review the further submissions made by the LAHC.  The LAHC has not provided any additional information on the mix of social housing/ affordable private housing.  This is interesting given their commitment to open and transparent engagement set out in their presentation on the NSW Government Communities Plus program.

No certainty on Social Housing Quotas

The residents are not objecting to social housing, they are objecting to the size and scale of the development in a busy street that is already narrow and is set to become even busier when Mindarie Park Stage 2 opens.

The Lane Cove Council are not objecting to the Concept Plan and have recommended the following:

“That the Sydney North Planning Panel approve a variation to the height prescribed by Clause 4.3 of the Lane Cove Local Environmental Plan 2009, as it is satisfied that the applicant’s request has fully addressed the matters required to be demonstrated by Clause 4.6 of that Plan, and the proposed development would be in the public interest as it is consistent with the objectives of that particular standard and development within the zone.

That pursuant to Section 4.6(1) of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, 1979 the Sydney North Planning Panel grant consent to concept development application DA50/2019 for a residential flat building pursuant to Lane Cove Local Environmental Plan 2009 for a mix of private and social housing on 20-22 Mindarie Street and 30 Pinaroo Place, subject to the draft conditions contained within Attachment 7.”

Lane Cove Council have not specified the mix of social and private to justify the increased height.  They have also not specified that private housing must be affordable. At the very least, this should have been a condition.

The Lane Cove Council is keen for this concept plan to be approved.  If it not approved, a financial obligation to LAHC is triggered.  In a complex land swap, Lane Cove Council secured the land to Mindarie Park and another LAHC property at 16 Pinaroo Place for another park.  The property at 16 Pinaroo Place will only be transferred, for free, under a voluntary planning agreement (VPA) if the Concept Plan and increased height is approved.

An officers report at the Lane Cove Council Meeting on 12 July 2019 stated:

“The Deed with the LAHC provides that in the event the VPA does not proceed, Council is required to pay for 16 Pinaroo. Any [sic] which are used for this purpose will impact the construction of the park. Council is therefore effectively balancing the merits of the land acquisition funding options.”

It’s interesting that when VPA was first presented to Lane Cove Council and put on public display there was no mention of a financial obligation being triggered if the VPA did not proceed.

The report stated

“NSW Land and Housing Corporation is the owner of the Land located at 16 Pinaroo Place, Lane Cove. LAHC intends to lodge with Council a Development Application seeking approval to carry out the Development on the Land, located at 30 Pinaroo Place, 20 and 22 Mindarie Street Lane Cove. LAHC are seeking a height variation to Council’s LEP controls in order to achieve the FSR permissible for the site under Council’s LEP control for the site, being 1.8:1. The site is sloping North to South, and minor breaches in height are contemplated due to the topography. In return for the relaxation of the height control. NSW Land and Housing Corporation will transfer Lot 16 (16 Pinaroo Place) to the Council free of cost.”

This fact was also not disclosed to the public when comments were requested on the VPA – see Have Your Say.

Is this transparent and open local government?  Why is an NSW State Government entity not keeping their commitment to open and transparent engagement set out in their presentation on the NSW Government Communities Plus program.?

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