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Council Rejects State Government’s Push for 8-Story Flats in Local Suburbs

Feb 15, 2024

Proposed planning reforms that will bring in major changes to land use and permit eight story apartments in suburbs including Richmond and Windsor have been rejected by the Hawkesbury City Council.

The reforms by the NSW government will see terraces, townhouses, duplexes, 8 story apartment blocks and smaller 1-2 story apartments permitted in suburbs where they are currently not, as part of plans to fast track housing development in the state. 

In its meeting on February 13, 2024, the HCC voted unanimously to oppose these changes, citing concerns over flood risk, local heritage, and insufficient infrastructure.

One of the most contentious aspects of the proposed policy is its ability to override Council’s Local Environmental Plan (LEP) and Development Control Plan (DCP) controls. This has been met with strong opposition from HCC who argue that the government’s plans haven’t taken account of flood risk or the semi-rural outlook which is integral to the charm and desirability of the Hawkesbury region.

At Mulgrave station (identified on the map) for example, developers would be permitted to build apartments up to 21m high within 400m of the station and 16m high within 800m of the station. The picture shows Mulgrave station during the 2022 floods.

In a statement, Hawkesbury City Mayor Sarah McMahon said the state government had failed to address critical factors such as flood risk, evacuation procedures, and fire risks in the region, raising serious questions about the safety of residents. 

“We saw particularly during the floods in recent years that large numbers of residents became cut off from Greater Sydney, and these were only relatively small floods compared to what can happen, Cr. McMahon said. 

“It is already well acknowledged the difficulty and risks we would face if we had to evacuate 60,000 residents using the existing evacuation routes that have been sorely neglected by successive state and federal Governments,” she said.

Councillor Nathan Zamprogno said a one size fits all policy is inadequate for the Hawkesbury.

“This is a spectacularly rotten policy that fails utterly to understand the character of the Hawkesbury. Residents have told us for decades that our semi-rural outlook is a key factor in our charm and desirability as a place to live and work,” Councillor Nathan Zamprogno wrote in his newsletter to residents.

“The State government has failed to provide enough detail for us to respond to their demand for a detailed response. For example, the interaction of the proposed policy with known constraints in our area caused by flood, flood evacuation and fire risk has not been explained at all,” he said.

The proposed reforms appear at odds with flood risk in the Hawkesbury.

Under the proposed reforms there would be three zones; “Town Centres” covering most larger suburbs, “Commercial Centres” in Windsor and Richmond, and areas around all train stations within the Local Government Area (LGA). Council will lose the authority to refuse various developments including new flat developments of up to 8 stories high (21m)  within 400m of these zones and 16m (5 stories) within 800m.  Dual Occupancies are proposed to be permitted in all Low-Density Residential zones across NSW.

Deputy Mayor, Labor’s Barry Calvert acknowledged the housing undersupply issue in NSW but said increasing population density in the Hawkesbury was not the solution. Calvert expressed concerns about the potential impact on the area’s unique character, safety risks, and the strain on transportation infrastructure.

“Adding more people to that mix is a disaster waiting to happen. Instead of talking about increasing our population, the government should be listening to this Council when we tell them that so much more needs to be done to provide better flood resilience and evacuation routes for the Hawkesbury,” Cr. Calvert said.

“Council is sympathetic to the issue of housing undersupply in NSW, however more homes and higher densities in the Hawkesbury is not the answer,” he said.

Council will now formally communicate its reasons for rejecting the plan to the NSW government. It has asked for more comprehensive discussions on the challenges and aspirations for development in the Hawkesbury region. 



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