Brave new world of complying developments

The practical implications of recent amendments to the State Government’s Low Rise Medium Density Housing Code, coming into force on 6 July, are only just emerging, with Council concerned the changes will further affect its ability to influence our built environment.

The amendments will allow more developments to be approved as complying developments. Providing the application meets specific criteria, complying developments can be determined by an accredited council or private certifier without the need for a development application (DA).

These will now include certain types of dual occupancies and new forms of medium density housing, classed as manor houses (similar to what was known as a two storey walk up) and terrace housing (see graphic).

“Having had a preliminary briefing from Council’s planning staff, I am very concerned that the new Code will allow developments to be built that are out of character with surrounding neighbourhoods,” says Mayor Mark Honey.

“Being NSW Government legislation, this would override some of the planning protections Council has developed for the community.

“This includes the new Development Control Plan for Jamberoo that Council and Jamberoo residents spent much time working on together.”

In Kiama LGA, the new Code will apply across all R2 (Low Density Residential) and R3 (Medium Density Residential) Residential zones.

The new Code does not override permissibility of development that is specified in the Kiama LEP – therefore it applies to dual occupancy development (two dwellings) in the R2 zone, and dual occupancy, manor houses and terraces (three or more dwellings) in the R3 zone.

The code is not able to be used on lots less than 12 metre wide, on battle-axe allotments, or in Heritage Conservation Areas or on land containing heritage items.

The changes will not only allow dual occupancies on 400m2 blocks, but may result in an increased floor space ratio.

Linda Davis, Council’s Director of Environmental Services says, “The Kiama LEP does not currently have a minimum lot size or development controls such as setbacks for medium density housing. In theory a dual occupancy development could be approved on a 400m2 block however the floor space ratio that applies would limit the size of the buildings to 0.45 of the lot size (180m2).

“Under the current regime, the more detailed development controls are contained in Council’s development control plan which allows some flexibility to be applied.

“The changes under the Code will not only continue to allow dual occupancies on 400m2 blocks, but the new formula for calculating the floor space ratio would allow the size of the buildings to be up to a 1:1 ratio of land (400m2).

“Having said that, the new Code also contains mandatory setback controls which in practice will restrict the size of the buildings that can be certified as complying development.”

She says the new Code contains 74 pages of detailed requirements that make comparisons between the existing and new regimes a complex exercise.

Amongst other things, the new Code also requires less outdoor open space and front setbacks.

Complying developments also have no neighbour notification requirements.

“The first thing the neighbours will know about it is when the bulldozers turn up on site and start work,” says Mayor Honey.

“I will be seeking some more detailed briefings about the changes and will also request a meeting with the local member to discuss the potential impact the new code will have on our communities.

“I reiterate that these changes have been developed by the NSW Government, not Kiama Council. However I will ensure the community is kept informed as this issue progresses.”

In his foreword to the Design Guide, the Minister for Planning, Anthony Roberts, says, “The low rise Medium Density Housing Code and the Low Rise Medium Density Design Guide address
a lack of housing choice by encouraging more variety in the form of terraces, manor houses or dual occupancies to generate more affordable options.

“This Design Guide will help make it easier to build high-quality low-rise, medium density homes that respect the local character of existing communities and streetscapes, have good built form and scale, as well as provide good amenity for both residents and neighbours.”

Details: Further information on the new Code can be obtained from













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