Members may have read news reports that the State Government has recently extended Complying Development to include medium-density housing – terraces, dual occupancy dwellings, or buildings containing up to three or four dwellings.

The point about Complying Development is that it doesn’t have to meet the requirements of a normal development application. Provided they can find a private certifier who is willing to say certain standards have been met, the developer’s proposal does not have to show you the plans or take into account any concerns you may have. The role of Council is limited to monitoring compliance. Previously, Complying Development was restricted to minor works, such as garden sheds or cubby houses, or in certain circumstances, single dwellings. Now the State Government is claiming it is filling the gap in the range of housing types that are available.

Fortunately for Glebe, and similar Inner City suburbs, it is unlikely the standards would be met: for example, the minimum lot size for medium-density is 200 square metres, and there would be very few lots of sufficient size, as well as other restrictions in Council controls that limit this type of development.

However, members are right to be concerned that suburbs further away from the CBD are likely to be targeted by developers who see an opportunity to avoid resident objections and Council scrutiny, and this is the crux of the matter. There is already concern that, in the special areas designated by the State Government, high-rise buildings are being built without sufficient controls, or concern for their impact on particular localities, and certainly without sufficient accompanying infrastructure. The whole point of the Plan for Greater Sydney, and the creation of several different hubs, is that the mistakes of the past would be avoided, and transport and infrastructure in particular would be included in future decisions.

The Society has always taken the view that private certification has failed, and needs much tighter regulation. Councils are the bodies with the knowledge and expertise to oversee development. Moreover, whatever the merits of Local Planning Panels (see Bulletin 1 of 2018) they should at least have proper oversight of local development, and medium-density housing should not be removed from their control.

Finally, we need to remind ourselves of the promise of the State Government to return planning powers to the people. Extending types of Complying Development, especially in areas where it will have a profound impact on the nature of localities, deprives the public of a say in the character of new building and ultimately of their locality, and is a further evasion and contradiction of this promise.