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State Planning Reforms

Proposed changes from the NSW Government

The State Government has proposed and introduced a range of planning reforms that could see a significant increase in development and building heights across the City of Canada Bay.

These reforms are:
1. The Transport-Oriented Development Program
2. Low and mid-rise housing reforms
3. Bonuses for affordable housing (introduced on Thursday, 14 December 2023).

These reforms could result in the construction of:

• High-density apartments in North Strathfield.
• Apartment buildings up to 6–7 storeys high around small town centres like Wareemba or Concord.
• Townhouses, terraces and two-storey apartment buildings around suburban town centres.
• 30% increased height for new apartment buildings across the LGA that meet certain affordable housing criteria.

At the time of writing, the NSW Government has not confirmed whether preserving heritage buildings will be prioritised over development in the areas affected by the proposed reforms.

We support efforts to deliver new, quality housing for Sydney’s growing population, however, Council has concerns about the widespread impacts these reforms will have on our area including negative consequences for our unique local character, heritage, and environment.

The changes have been proposed without adequate opportunity for our local community to have their say, and seemingly no consideration to the impact that rapid, increases to population will have on already strained transport links and local infrastructure, such as schools and hospitals.

Please click on the drop-down menus below for further information about these complex changes, the impacts they will have on the City of Canada Bay, and the response of Council to date.

What are the reforms?

Reform one: Transport Oriented Development Program

In December 2023, the NSW Department of Planning, Housing and Infrastructure (DPHI) released the Transport Oriented Development Program, (TOD) which affects Strathfield and North Strathfield. 

The TOD Program comprises two initiatives. 

1. A new State Environmental Planning Policy (TOD SEPP) will be prepared (by the State Government) that amends planning controls to enable apartment buildings within 400 metres of 31 stations.  One station is located in the City of Canada Bay, being North Strathfield.

Under the new TOD SEPP, Residential flat buildings will be permitted in residential zones within the 400m catchment and development standards will be implemented to facilitate buildings to a height of 21m and a Floor Space Ratio of 3.0:1. 

2. Eight transport hubs have been identified as ‘Accelerated Precincts’ and will be subject to state-led rezoning and land use master planning processes.  The catchment of the Homebush Accelerated Precinct includes land within Strathfield and North Strathfield in the City of Canada Bay. A draft masterplan is proposed to be released by the NSW Government in May – June 2024 with the rezoning process being finalised by the end of 2024.

Building heights and densities will be determined through the master planning process undertaken by DPHI.

Reform two: Low and mid-rise housing reforms

In December 2023, the State Government released a document titled ‘Explanation of Intended Effect: Changes to create low and mid-rise housing’.

These proposed reforms seek to increase the amount of development that is possible within the vicinity of train stations, metro stations and centres that contain a full line supermarket (noting that a ‘full line supermarket’ has not been defined). 

If implemented, they will have considerable effects on our area.

  • Increased building heights around town centres and train stations: the majority of our R3 zones near stations and town centres in Canada Bay are designed for low-rise flat buildings have height restrictions of between 2 to 3 storeys. The proposed changes are likely to permit flat buildings up to 6 to 7 storeys within 400m of our town centres, and up to 4 to 5 storeys within 400m-800m of our town centres. Areas affected could include centres such as Drummoyne, Five Dock, Wareemba, Majors Bay Road, Mortlake, North Strathfield and Concord West.

As an example, it would be possible to construct 6 to 7 storey apartment buildings on land that is currently zoned R3 Medium Density in the vicinity of Wareemba and Majors Bay Road on land that currently comprises 2 storey townhouses. 

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  • Townhouses and 2-storey flats in R2 low-density residential zones within 800m of local centres: the proposed changes would permit townhouses, terraces and 2-storey flats up to 9.5m height on relatively small lots (500-600 sqm) in the R2 zone within 800m of certain local centres.

As an example, it would be possible to construct townhouses, terraces and manor homes on land that is currently zoned R2 Low Density in the vicinity of Wareemba and Majors Bay Road on land that currently comprises single dwellings.

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  • Dual Occupancy permitted on small lots in all R2 low-density residential zones: the proposed changes would permit dual occupancy generally up to 9.5m height on small lots (minimum 450sqm and 12m width). Council currently permits dual occupancies on lots with a minimum site area of 450sqm and 14m width.

We anticipate the low and mid-rise housing reforms to come into effect by July 2024.

Maps depicting indicative areas affected by proposed reforms.

Figure 1: Map of areas impacted by low and mid-rise housing reforms.

Map of areas impacted by low and mid-rise housing reforms

Please note: The areas in the below maps showing proposed new planning controls are indicative based on information provided by the NSW Government. The purpose of the maps is to indicate the proposed changes at a high level and it should not be used to assess impacts on individual properties. There may be more or fewer properties impacted by the proposed new planning controls than is shown on the maps.

Map of areas impacted by low and mid-rise housing reforms

Figure 2: Map of areas impacted by proposed low and mid-rise housing reforms with existing zoning overlay.


Reform three: Bonus for affordable housing

On 14 December 2023, the NSW Government implemented in-fill affordable housing reforms to encourage developers to provide affordable housing and deliver additional market housing.

The reform allows a floor space ratio bonus of 20-30% and a height bonus of 20-30% for projects that include at least 10% of gross floor area to be used for affordable housing for a temporary period of 15 years.  The height bonus only applies to residential flat buildings and shop top housing.

Applications for new buildings in the City of Canada Bay LGA have already been submitted seeking to utilise this bonus.  An example in Rhodes, if approved, will afford the applicant 11 additional stories.

Combining this reform with the two above, this would mean that the proposed 21m high (6 to 7 storey) apartment buildings that would be allowed near small town centres could be up to 27m high (8 to 9 storeys) inclusive of a 30% affordable housing bonus.

You can learn more about the proposed reforms here:

What are Council's concerns?

These changes raise several concerns for Council around planning, infrastructure, heritage and the environment. 

• Inconsistency with state and local strategic planning policies: The changes are inconsistent with planning statements and actions contained in the Eastern City District Plan, and Council’s Local Strategic Planning Statement and Local Housing Strategy. 

• Insufficient justification for changes: While the 'housing crisis' is acknowledged, no analysis has been provided to Council to justify the changes proposed, and no estimates have been provided on the additional population likely to result and no correlation made with making housing more affordable.

• Impact on heritage: The changes are proposed to apply within heritage conservation areas and there is concern that heritage protected places will be lost where the conservation of buildings and landscapes is inconsistent with the proposed new standards.

• Impact on local character:The changes take no account of local circumstances or character, potentially resulting in wholesale changes to the built form of our local centres and to low density residential suburbs surrounding those centres.

• Impact on roads and infrastructure: The changes take no account of the potential increase in population and impacts on traffic, parking and demand for services and facilities; for example, parks, schools, and community centres that are required to service new residents.

Impacts on natural hazards and resilience: No assessment has been made of the potential impacts of locating additional population in areas subject to flooding.  Rather, Council will need to assess these impacts on a case-by-case basis through the development assessment process.

Reduced landscaping and tree canopy: The changes propose substantial increases in density; for example, permitting far higher floorspace ratios, resulting in loss of landscaping and tree canopy.

Local amenity impacts: The changes will increase issues associated with overshadowing, privacy, and loss of views for neighbouring properties. 

More detailed information on Council's concerns can be found in its submissions on the two proposed reforms. 

What is Council's response?

At a meeting in February 2024, Council resolved to provide the below submissions to the State Government raising our concerns on the proposed reforms.