Proposed Changes to Residential Development

The NSW Government today put forward a number of proposed amendments to the State Environmental Planning Policy No. 65 – Design Quality of Residential Flat Development (SEPP 65) in an attempt to increase flexibility for residential developers, speed up approval times through consent authorities and improve housing affordability by reducing development costs (in an attempt to encourage developers to reduce pricing).

So what is SEPP 65?

SEPP 65 is a policy that controls residential flat development. It stipulates amongst other things, the design quality principles that development applications should adhere to, the requirement for a registered architect to design the project and the relevant codes and regulations consent authorities are obliged to follow when considering an application.  

What changes are being made?

Traditionally, Councils have relied on their individual and specific Development Control Plans (DCPs) to assess development applications. Given that each council devises their own DCPs, this has led to an inconsistency in controls between one council area to the next. A new Apartment Design Guide is now being proposed. The aim of this guide is to improve the design of residential apartment buildings and achieve a greater level of design consistency across NSW.

It has been proposed for the Apartment Design Guide to take precedence over the council’s DCPs – where they differ, it will be the standard within the Guide that will prevail as a basis for assessment and approval. This relates to a number of issues including (but not limited to): ceiling heights, balconies and open private spaces, common spaces, apartment layout and storage.

For developers, these changes have introduced new flexibilities around alternative design solutions including ceiling height and apartment area. Applications will no longer be refused or delayed because of departures from the Council’s DCPs providing the design adheres to the Apartment Design Guide. A further key change is to eliminate the minimum requirement for the provision of car parking where developments are located within 400 metres of a train or light rail station. The Government is encouraging greater use of public transport and this is a step towards achieving that goal.

What developments will this affect?

The current policy applies to residential flat developments only however it is expected that the new proposal will apply to a broader range of development types including not only residential apartments, but also mixed used developments where a residential component is included and shop top housing. This will likely increase consistency of development application and approval processes across all applications.