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The Politics of Reaction & Density

There’s been many a hyperbolic story in the press recently about the new State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) for Low Rise Medium Density. Without going into detail, the SEPP is an Act of State Parliament that allows Duplexes, Manor Houses and Row (or terrace) Houses, meeting all requirements under the Act, to be built without consent from Local Councils. The thing about the Act is that this type housing can only be built where it’s currently already permitted to be built. Nothing has changed in terms of the development potential of sites, just the approvals path.

Soooo… what’s going on?

At the risk of crying NIMBY.

“NIMBY politics!”

While the approvals process is subject to Councils, local residents can at least mobilise to appose any development application, compliant or otherwise. This power to mobilise opposition has now been taken out of their hands and Council’s have been caught with their political pants down (apologies if that’s an inappropriate use of two metaphors).

The political fix is now on. The state government, for all their good intentions, have been caught out by the failure of local governments to zone areas for medium density suitably – ie from either a political and/or urban design standpoint. Local Council’s are now scrambling to fix this issue for their own constituencies, if not the State Government’s, who will be going to the polls in less than a year.

Curiously, the change has been in the pipeline for over two years and not without an inconsiderable profile. Yet seemingly no local Councils, Sutherland aside, saw fit to review their zoning and amend any areas of concern if subjected to the pressures of medium density housing. So the questions remain. Did local Council’s do this review but are now surrendering to pressure either locally or from the State? or, Are local Councils failing us and the design of our cities through reactive politics, rather than proactive planning?


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