Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Waterloo and other State Significant Development sites

Last week the NSW Ministers for Housing and Social Housing - Anthony Roberts and Pru Goward - announced that Waterloo has been nominated as a State Significant Precinct. This is the third time the idea of State Significant Developments has come up in an area that includes large tracts of land owned by the Land and Housing Corporation - the others being Riverwood North and the Ivanhoe Estate.

The Ministers explained State Significant Precincts as "areas where the NSW Government takes the lead role in the approval of planning proposals, which are of state or regional significance due to their social, economic and environmental characteristics."

We've previously said, in relation to Riverwood:
State Significant Precinct's are a creature of planning law - specifically the State Environmental Planning Policy (State Specific Precincts) 2005. Determining an area to be a State Significant Precinct allows the NSW Government to override local government planning processes by either adjusting applicable Local Environmental Plans (as has happened with areas around Macquarie Park), or adjusting the SEPP to include zoning and planning controls within the document itself (as has happened with the Redfern-Waterloo area). More information about State Significant Precincts can be found in this document: here.
Colleagues at Shelter NSW have since drawn our attention to a 2017 amendment to the State Environmental Planning Policy (State and Regional Development) 2011 - at clause 10 of schedule 2. This provides that a project to develop land identified as a Land and Housing Corporation Site that is within the State Significant Development Sites Maps will qualify as a State Significant Development if the project is carried out on behalf of the Land and Housing Corporation and has a capital investment value of more than $20 million.

That is, if land on public housing sites within a State Significant Development Site is to be "recycled" - as is the current buzzword - at a cost of $20 million or more, the NSW Government gets to oversee the planning process, rather than local government. This would also apply to land that is vacant, as long as it owned by the Land and Housing Corporation and falls within the State Significant Development Sites Map in the SEPP.

At the moment, there's not a lot of land outside of the Waterloo and Ivanhoe areas that would meet this criteria. But as we can see from the Riverwood North announcement of late last year, it's not out of the question that Government will, from time to time, seek to pull land on which public housing estates are built into this State Significant Developments scheme.

We're told that the Riverwood North site straddles a couple of different Local Government Areas, and that's what makes it necessary to treat is as a State Significant Precinct. No such concern seems to apply to the Ivanhoe Estate, or the land at Waterloo. In fact, where the Waterloo site is concerned, the Ministers' announcement says:
“Proposals to rezone the land will be assessed under a new collaborative arrangement between the Department of Planning and Environment and the City of Sydney Council, reflecting a commitment to work together to ensure good planning and design outcomes.”
Overriding a local council's planning mechanisms and then entering into a new "collaborative arrangement" to rezone and redevelop is an interesting move. We wonder if this commitment to working together comes in the form of a binding agreement, with clear lines of delegation?

Two other matters of importance to note from last week's announcement:
Minister for Social Housing Pru Goward said the Department of Family and Community Services would spearhead the future redevelopment of the Waterloo Estate through a series of master planning workshops, which will be held over the next 12 months.
So residents can expect to be consulted by FACS, on planning. And:
“Under the Communities Plus program, the revitalisation of Waterloo will see no loss of social housing dwellings and a new community of social, affordable and private housing,” Ms Goward said.
So a further commitment to retain the current level of social housing in the area, as part of increasing density.

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