Alister Henskens portrait
Alister Henskens portrait

Ku-ring-gai Electorate Development Approvals

Apartment Development

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS ( Ku-ring-gai ) ( 19:31 :00 ): The upper North Shore of Sydney, which I have the privilege to represent, was a textbook piece of good urban planning. In the 1890s before the railway line was put in place, Ku-ring-gai largely consisted of orchards and small farms. After the provision of the rail infrastructure, the orchards near the railway stations were progressively subdivided into quarter acre or larger building blocks for residential homes. More than 100 years later, that rail infrastructure investment is still being used every day to take large numbers of residents to work or to recreational activities. The subdivisions that occurred in the upper north shore up until the term of the last Labor Government provided a tree-lined spacious environment with adequate local roads and other infrastructure.

I will do everything I can in this place to protect the unique tree-lined character of Ku-ring-gai. Under the Labor Government, a former planning Minister, Frank Sartor, started vandalising the good planning principles that formed the basis of Ku-ring-gai. He started an irreversible process that is responsible for the many apartment buildings that have been built and are still being built in Ku-ring-gai today. In 2010 Labor planning Minister Tony Kelly, under part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, approved 200 apartments, which many local residents are concerned about and oppose, on the site that houses the Sydney Adventist Hospital and the Wahroonga Adventist School. Luke Foley said that he will triple the amount of high-rise developments on the north shore of Sydney if Labor returns to government in this State.

The Coalition Government has made several beneficial planning reforms that should be acknowledged. It rightly repealed the unprincipled part 3A system that allowed State planning Ministers to give development approvals to large developers. The Government has also made it more difficult to obtain spot rezoning of land for multistorey or commercial developments. The recent rejection of a proposed Aldi rezoning on Eastern Road, Turramurra, is a good example of that. Spot rezonings are inherently unprincipled and are unplanned developments outside the zoning put in the local environment plans produced after consultation with the local community. There need to be compelling reasons to justify them. But there still exists a kind of spot rezoning, the impact of which I encourage the planning Minister and our local council to work together to remedy. That is the impact of State environment planning instruments on the local amenity of the Ku-ring-gai electorate.

Councils can apply to the planning Minister to have State environmental planning policies [SEPPs] exempted from operation in their council area. In the past couple of years I have received consistent complaints about inappropriate developments in residential neighbourhoods allowed by SEPPs in Ku-ring-gai. Concerns by the local community have included SEPP concessions for senior living, childcare centres, boarding houses and affordable housing. The main amenity concerns relate to traffic and the inappropriate bulk of these kinds of developments in suburban neighbourhoods. I commend the planning Minister for undertaking a review of all SEPPs and I hope that he is able to ameliorate the undesirable impacts on our local community of these unplanned incursions into our area. For example, there has been an explosion of childcare centres, often in completely inappropriate locations in my electorate, as people try to commercialise residential zonings and improve the value of their land.

A number of residents have drawn to my attention the so-called affordable housing SEPP in relation to many developments. A recent example is the development site at 4‑8 Marian Street, Killara, which is just over 1,900 square metres and is zoned R4 high density residential. It is also close to the Killara station. The developer is attempting to use the affordable rental housing SEPP to increase the allowable floor space ratio from 1:1 to 1.4:1 by incorporating 14 miniature affordable rental apartments. The result is said by many concerned residents to be one of the ugliest buildings in Ku-ring-gai. It is sandwiched between the historic Marian Street Theatre and Springdale, which is a 2008 high-quality Mirvac development described by some as one of the finest apartment buildings in Ku-ring-gai.

The Springdale owners corporation employed a town planner, who raised a significant number of major issues with the proposal. Rather than deal with the community concerns, the developer announced that the application was subject to a deemed refusal and took the matter to the Land and Environment Court. In its statement of facts and contentions lodged with the court, Ku-ring-gai Council points out that the 4.73 metres extra height represents a 32.6 per cent variation to the 14.5 metre height control. Killara is an expensive suburb to live in—even with the 20 per cent discount provided under the affordable rental housing SEPP. The people in our area whom the SEPP is designed to assist will not be able to afford the rent for units in the proposed development.

Developers should be required to justify the need for affordable rental housing in the suburb in which they want to build, there should be a ceiling on the rent that they can charge and the apartments should be available only to people working in essential services—teachers, paramedics, nurses and the like. There is nothing more important than the amenity of our local areas. I encourage the Minister to scrutinise the planning and policy settings of the SEPPs that operate in Ku-ring-gai.