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The peak body representing councils in Greater Western Sydney, the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC), is urging the NSW Government to rethink features of proposed planning changes that WSROC says will jeopardise the state’s ambitious housing targets.

“WSROC is inviting the government to meet with councils to discuss issues such as parking access, domestic waste services and managing urban heat, to ensure that the government’s housing plan can be smoothly and effectively implemented,” said WSROC President, Councillor Barry Calvert.

In December, the NSW Government released a document titled "The Explanation of Intended Effect: Changes to create low and mid-rise housing" outlining major changes to housing planning controls — such as floor space and building height allowances— intended to increase the development capacity of land located near to a “station or town centre precinct".

WSROC quickly identified a host of problems with the housing plan that could push up land values, reduce quality of living, worsen traffic congestion — even cause garbage bins to pile up on footpaths and in streets creating safety and health hazards — among other things.

“WSROC supports efforts by the government to increase housing availability and affordability, provided the outcome is well-designed housing that is sustainable - including financially sustainable,” said Councillor Calvert.

“We are urging the government to sit down with councils to sort through important details of its plan, such as the government’s blanket approach to car spaces across the city.

“Inadequate onsite resident parking will not result in fewer cars on our roads but put further pressures on street parking, and the viability of other services such as waste collection.

“Removing onsite access for waste services in new apartment buildings will see a weekly tsunami of bins into the streets surrounding our train stations, affecting pedestrian safety, parking and movement of traffic during peak periods.

“More bins and large waste items such as furniture at the kerbside block footpaths, contribute to local litter and amenity issues, and are difficult to collect without impacting traffic flow.

Western Sydney councils are also concerned that the government’s proposals don’t adequately address natural and man-made hazards.

“For example, while the proposed reforms acknowledge the worsening flood risk in Greater Western Sydney, particularly in relation to the Hawkesbury Nepean Valley, they don’t address other hazards such as bushfire and heatwaves,” said Councillor Calvert.

“We are also concerned that the government’s proposals do not specify affordable housing delivery or developer contribution requirements — which is particularly concerning given the inevitable uplift in land values within mid-rise housing vicinities.

“WSROC urges the NSW Government to work with local councils to deliver a more nuanced and fit-for-purpose solution to the current housing crisis.

For full details, see WSROC’s submission in response to the plan online at this link.

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The President of Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC), Councillor Barry Calvert, has rejected suggestions that councils are responsible for a slowdown in housing development applications in New South Wales and has called on the NSW Government to improve the overall performance of the state planning system.

“Councils in NSW have approved more than 85,000 new homes in the last 12 months alone — representing 97 per cent of all housing applications submitted to councils. Clearly, councils are fully and actively engaged in processing housing approvals,” said Councillor Calvert.

“The state's housing crisis is a complex issue with multiple contributing factors and blaming councils trivialises the problem.”Housing estate in Western Sydney seen from the air

“The housing crisis in NSW has not been caused by councils but is influenced by factors including shortages of construction materials and labour, rising interest rates, and now falling housing prices.

“Successive failures by NSW governments to consult with local councils are complicating the housing approval process.

“For example, the NSW Government’s e-planning portal through which home-builders prepare, lodge and track development applications was created with very little local government consultation and has been a disaster for local government and home-builders.

“The e-portal has layers of complexity for home-builders, has increased the administrative burden on local government and is plagued by substantial performance deficiencies.

“The e-portal is more like an outdated document management system than a sophisticated and comprehensive e-planning tool.

“Also, I get the impression from home builders that staff turnover in the State Public Service and the difficulty and delays in getting responses from government agencies are contributing to delays and lack of responsiveness in processing housing applications at the Department of Planning.

“The sheer number of agencies and functions within the NSW Department of Planning and Environment cluster, too, is not conducive to efficient Government.

“The span of control and the roles and responsibilities of the Department does not allow for effective oversight of those processes responsible for delivering the State’s planning outcomes.

“Western Sydney councils are urging a review of the State public service’s end-to-end processes and capabilities to identify delays to planning outcomes. 

WSROC has proposed a range of actions the government can take to address the housing and homelessness crisis, including investing in public and social housing, incentivizing owners to return housing stock to the rental market, working closely with councils and communities to plan density effectively, and addressing industry and market barriers to housing supply.

“Solving the housing crisis will require the cooperation of all levels of government rather than finger-pointing, and local government is ready to play its role in addressing the issue,” said Councillor Calvert.

“There’s a need for a more comprehensive and cooperative approach to addressing the housing crisis in New South Wales, involving all stakeholders, rather than placing blame solely on local councils.

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The peak body representing councils in Western Sydney, the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC) has welcomed the NSW Government’s new building energy standards — but warns that further revision will be needed to ensure climate resilience.Western Sydney residential street SMALL

The new standards for energy performance are outlined in the NSW Government’s Sustainable Building State Environment Planning Policy’s (SEPP) ‘Building Sustainability Index’ (BASIX) which came into effect on Sunday 1 October.

The BASIX tool is used to assesses the expected water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and thermal performance of proposed developments, including new homes.

“The aim of the SEPP is to raise minimum standards for new homes with regards to energy and water usage, bringing New South Wales into line with the National Construction Code standards,” said WSROC President, Councillor Barry Calvert. 

“The old BASIX SEPP was severely outdated, using pre-1980s climate data, so we congratulate the Government on these updates.

“Communities are increasingly aware that better quality homes will deliver huge savings on energy bills and other costs of living. Better minimum standards are particularly important for renters who do not have control over the performance of their homes.

“However, as we move towards a warmer climate, with increased risks of extreme heatwaves and power outages, WSROC would like to see future iterations of the SEPP incorporate a resilience approach,” said Councillor Calvert.

“At present, home performance is modelled using average climate files. This doesn’t tell us how homes might perform in extreme events, or in the next 10 to 20 years. In addition, homes are currently tested with air-conditioning running.

“This is not a realistic picture of how homes are used. We know that many households can’t afford to run their air-conditioning, and that access to power may be interrupted during an extreme heatwave,” he said.

“In heatwaves, many communities need to shelter in place. And homes should provide a basic level of protection from the outside elements, even in an outage.

“WSROC is calling on the NSW Government to look at how thermal safety could be integrated into our current planning system, and the role that federal, state and local controls may play in this mix,” said Councillor Calvert.

“Western Sydney — which will be home to four million people by 2041 — is particularly exposed to heat due to its geography and weather patterns, including the prevalence of hot westerly winds and lack of cooling sea breezes.

“While the newly announced standards promise to cut thermal energy use by at least 20 per cent and will perhaps save homeowners on power bills, more work is needed to ensure our homes will be safe in our future climate.

“Extreme heat events are Australia’s worst natural hazard for human deaths, except for disease epidemics – we must ensure our homes are designed to provide protection in such events.

“We are inviting the NSW Government to work with WSROC to progress heat resilience, which has emerged as a significant and growing challenge for not just Western Sydney, but for NSW and Australia as a whole.”

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For information about WSROC's Urban Heat Planing Toolkit, follow the link!

 

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