Weston Creek Community Council welcomes the opportunity to comment on Draft Variation No. 306 to the Territory Plan. The Council notes that in response to submissions concerning Draft Variations 302 and 303 these have been replaced with a more clearly drafted document. In particular when presenting the changes ACTPLA has paid particular attention to explaining the points of difference in DV 306.
However as with DV 303 there are no clear objectives for the change or clarification of the outcomes that the new changes are trying to achieve. The opportunity to assess how well the Territory Plan is meeting its objectives and could be improved has been replaced by the introduction of a further layer of complexity. As far as we are aware there has been little evaluation of the current codes which is crucial in evaluating whether they are giving effect to some of the central elements of the Territory Plan’s Statement of Strategic Directions.
The following comments are made in relation to the various sections of DV 306 which generally apply to RZ 1 and RZ2 only and are made despite the feeling that the we have added another layer of ‘regulations’ on top of an already complex system.
- Residential Zones
- Secondary Residences
- Private and Communal Open Space
- Multi Unit Housing Development Code
The revision to describe the ‘desired character’ of urban development in each zone is a feature which by its clarity should afford a greater degree of certainty to the residents of Weston Creek and the Council considers this to be a major improvement. However it would be appropriate to recognise the different needs and characteristics of suburbs which should be established in consultation with residents.
It is noted that a differentiation is made between existing and new RZ 1 zones. The Council is pleased to note that the minimum block size for dual occupancies has reverted to 800 sq m. although they can not be subdivided or unit titled. The Council suggests that this provision be reconsidered particularly for corner blocks where access can be obtained from two streets and the opportunity exists for innovative design without detriment to adjoining properties.
A mix of dwelling sizes and types is considered particularly important in established suburbs taking into account the ageing population, its desire to age in place and also the decreasing family size. The Council considers that this important factor should be considered in a reconsideration of the demise of the dual occupancy on a separate title albeit with restrictions on plot ratio and overall dwelling size.
The move to retain neighbourhood character in RZ 2 zones by limiting both the density of dwellings and the scale and character of a development. In particular the requirement to maintain a continuous street frontage and placement of dwellings in relation to both the street and car parking is regarded as an improvement. The reduction of the minimum block size to 700sq.m. is regarded as a positive in the context of the overall density. A slightly higher density for adaptable housing is regarded as a tool to encourage the building of more dwellings for elderly and disabled persons close to facilities. This is a relevant to Weston Creek which has an ageing population with a limited ability to maintain large gardens.
The Council supports the general principle to consolidate higher density in the RZ3 and 4 zones close to commercial centres and transport corridors. In particular in RZ3 they note the aim to create a wide range of housing, the maximum height restriction and the 65% plot ratio. However this needs to be linked to a quality of design that in many cases has been so far noticeable absent from the formula. We urge ACTPLA to encourage innovative design and use of materials to add some vibrancy to these areas.
Development Applications can be considered in the merit track if they demonstrate ‘innovation in design’. Whilst the Council strongly supports innovative design it is unable to find any reference to innovation criteria in the codes. How is innovation to be judged?
The Introduction of an integrated development parcel is noted which is subject to the same block compliance tables as a single dwelling block without the subsequent single blocks necessarily needing to comply. The Council consider that whilst this will allow for higher densities the design element will be absolutely crucial in avoiding a lower level of residential amenity, solar access and the chance of these dwellings becoming future ‘slums’.
This new form of residential development is regarded by the Council as a positive move to allow a secondary dwelling on a single block without the occupancy restrictions which are very difficult to police and enforce. However the upper size limit of 75sq.m. could be inappropriate on some blocks. Whilst it is noted that the secondary dwelling must comply with both the Single Dwelling House Development Code and the parking requirements the approval of these dwellings via the Code Track provisions could be problematic.
Secondary dwellings can have a significant effect on neighbours and the Council strongly prefers that the Merit Track provisions be applied so that neighbours are aware of the development even at the slight risk of fewer applications.
Single Housing Development Code
The Council supports the retention of the 50% plot ratio on single dwelling blocks in RZ1 and applauds the clarification of the private open space provisions.
There appears to have been some change to the provisions regarding setbacks with reductions in most cases. This causes some concern to the Council in particular the nil boundary set back for upper floor level on mid size and compact blocks. The spatial and visual effect could result in a very cramped overall design for an area particularly where there are several developments of this nature in close proximity. Further the combination of plot ratios and revised set back requirements are likely to make it very difficult for an owner to plant trees or develop a significant garden.
Therefore the question can be asked whether there are any proven environmental benefits which we would hope in to find in this area of the revised set of codes.
The alterations to a nil side boundary setback for garages are an acknowledgement to frequent current practice but the Council believes that neighbours should have notification rights.
The alterations to the requirement for solar access appears to provide a more flexible approach to allow for the different orientation of blocks and has removed the different building envelopes for the primary and rear building zones. This does not ensure that some of the problems with overshadowing have been addressed and the Council would like further information on this matter and some assurance that the previous 3 hrs per day of solar access rule has not been downgraded.
The definitions are clear and it is noted that mention is made of deep rooted trees which will assist in re –invigorating the existing tree landscape. However past observation indicates that the ‘guidelines’ have often been manipulated with the space provided being not useable or even attractive. The Council would expect that the proposed requirements will be rigorously enforced to ensure that Canberra’s traditional garden character can be maintained as much as possible.
Comment has already been made on a number of the changes in the RZ 2 zone such as block size for a dual occupancy, density controls, plot ratio for single blocks, solar access. The council also supports the amendment to natural ventilation provisions in blocks of more than 3 dwellings, the threshold for short stay parking and the moving of area specific provisions to the relevant precinct code.
Of concern however is the deletion of the reference to neighbourhood plans and the reliance on the provisions in the precinct codes. Overall the Council supports the development of neighbourhood plans which take into account the local conditions and especially restraints. One size does not fit all. In the development of a plan opportunity is given for local residents to provide input which engenders both a sense of ownership and responsibility. Their development can act as an exercise in building trust between ACTPLA and residents which can be a very valuable asset at times of major development.
The Council notes that several changes are proposed to definitions and would ask that they be provided with a copy when the list is finalised. It would also be helpful if examples were provided with the more complex definitions
The Council would be happy to have further discussion with ACTPLA if this would be useful in the context of trying to reach some better definition around what everyone would like to achieve in each zone. As mentioned at the beginning of this submission consultation with the community prior to presenting them with the solution could result in a more workable agreement on strategy for change which would contribute greatly to appropriate reform.
WESTON CREEK COMMUNITY COUNCIL
5 September 2011