Sunday, January 29, 2012

DA1305 - Letter from the BCCT

The General Manager
Hornsby Shire Council
PO Box 37 Hornsby NSW 1630

Joint Regional Planning Panel
23-33 Bridge Street
NSW 2000

RE DA 2011SYW128 / 1305/2011
7-11 Hannah St and 129-131 Copeland Rd Beecroft

Dear Sirs,


The Beecroft Cheltenham Civic Trust objects to the above Development Application proposing development of 51 units across three buildings to be built in the Beecroft Heritage area.  We understand the DA is to be  assessed by the JRPP under State Environmental Planning Policy Affordable Rental Housing 2009 (ARH SEPP) under recommendations provided by Hornsby Shire Council.

Zoning of the Beecroft Cheltenham Area

Respecting their heritage value, Beecroft and Cheltenham are zoned Residential AS (Low Density Sensitive Lands), which prohibits further multi storey residential unit buildings. 

DA1305 tries to use the recent gazettal of the Beecroft Shopping Village (BSV) precinct for 5 storey mixed commercial and residential development to support this new application. In fact, the BSV rezoning clearly defined the shopping precinct (between Chapman Avenue, Beecroft Road , and Wongala Crescent), as the only area where 5 storey development is permissible. In doing this it can be seen as Council’s and the State Government’s clear desire and intent to restrict all multi storey development to within that shopping village precinct, prohibiting any similar scale development on the western side of Beecroft Road or elsewhere, so as to avoid compromising the character of the area covered by the Residential AS zoning.

The objectives of the AS zoning are clear:
Residential AS (Low Density—Sensitive Lands) Zone
Objectives of Zone
(a)  to provide for the housing needs of the population of the Hornsby area.
(b)  to promote a variety of housing types and other land uses compatible with a low density residential environment and sensitive to the land capability and established character of this environment.
(c)  to provide for development that is within the environmental capacity of a sensitive low density residential environment
Character of Local Area
Because of the character of the Beecroft Cheltenham heritage area, the ARH SEPP requires any development to satisfy a character test.  SEPP Affordable Housing - Character of Local Area Clause 16A states:
“A consent authority must not consent to development to which this Division applies unless it has taken into consideration whether the design of the development is compatible with the character of the local area.”

The character of the local area is controlled by Hornsby Council’s zoning of the area. The zoning of the subject land is Residential AS Low Density Sensitive Lands.  Within Hornsby Shire, this zoning is unique to Beecroft and Cheltenham and was, amongst other things, created to protect the suburb from inappropriate development such as residential flat buildings.  The zoning was introduced after some three-storey residential flat buildings were built along Beecroft Road opposite the Shopping Village.  The zoning was intended to prevent any further building of such residential flat buildings of any height.  Yet DA1305 is now quoting those older buildings in justification for building of more residential flat buildings of even greater height.

So any character test must take into account the objectives of the Residential AS zoning that have a strong clear emphasis on low density environmentally sensitive development. 


The application includes a detailed Urban Design Review (UDR), Statement of Environmental Effects (SEE), and Heritage Impact Statement (HIS) to claim compliance with this character test.  The Trust considers all three documents to be deficient as they either do not address certain critical criteria, or have commented in a selective manner to support the proposal. Examples are provided below.

Urban Design Review

In UDR section 4.2 Density, the review refers to “minimal impacts” on the existing character of the surrounding public domain because the density is concentrated predominately within the middle of the super block.  This is demonstrably untrue.  The proposed complex will be completely out of character behind the existing Hannah Street streetscape.  More significantly, because of the steep downward slope of the land, these tall buildings will tower over the Copeland Road streetscape. For such a significant issue, on a $17M development, it would seem reasonable for a scale model to be built before locals are asked to respond to the development, or the consent authorities are required to make a finding.

The review refers to varying densities of multi unit developments in the surrounding streets, with emphasis on “higher density developments” such as a medical centre (which is in fact a single storey house on a large lot), the bowling club (a single storey building surrounded by bowling greens) and recreational clubs (none exist in this locality). 

The UDR highlights the 3 storey units facing Beecroft Rd as “representative”, whereas, as stated before, those buildings were the very reason why the AS zoning was introduced: to prevent further building of that nature.  Anyway these existing 3 storey buildings are only ribbon developments facing Beecroft Road and are not representative of any other part of the rest of the urban area to the north, south, or west.

The review fails to state that many of the Beecroft Road units were built prior to the gazettal of the Residential AS zoning, and that these units would now be non-compliant with that zoning. Even so, those existing Beecroft Road units are only short frontage 3 storey blocks with 12 units, clearly not characteristic of the proposed long frontage 5 storey buildings containing 51 units.

Similarly Section 4.3 Built Form Scale Height and Setbacks, and Section 4.4 Architectural Expression are very selective in their comments.  In particular 4.4 Architecture makes generic statements and limits any detailed reference only to “Eltham” on the corner of Beecroft Road, nothing else.  Obviously even the authors could not think of anything constructive to say to justify the architectural expression of their proposal.

The scale of the proposed development has not been properly addressed and is considered to be totally out of keeping with the existing housing in the neighbourhood. As such the proposal will have a very significant and negative visual impact in the area. While it may be screened to some extent on the higher (Hannah Street) side, the fall of the land exposes the 5-storey scale on the other aspects. This monumental scale will have a severe negative impact on the existing properties due to issues around overlooking and loss of privacy. There will also be significant loss of solar access to the existing neighbours
As stated above, the DA review tries to use the recent gazetting of BSV precinct to 5 storey mixed development as justification for spreading 5 storey development outside that precinct, whereas the review should concede that the BSV rezoning prohibits any similar scale development on the western side of Beecroft Rd.

Statement of Environmental Effects

Similarly with the SEE.  It is a matter of what is not stated or commented on rather than what is stated in support of the proposed development.  As an example under part 4 Strategic and Statutory Planning, referring to the recent rezoning of the nearby Village Precinct, the report states “The proposed development is consistent with these aims although located to the west of Beecroft”.  This unqualified statement implies compliance and consistency, where in fact no such compliance or consistency exists.

Later, the SEE discusses the character of the local area, and emphasises how the proposed development and the recently up-zoned BSV Precinct are both within the 800 metres radius for infill affordable housing, concluding “and consequently is an area with a desired future character of urban consolidation.”  This is totally misleading as the zoning of the BSV Precinct and the proposed development are completely different and the latter is very far from being desirable under any assessment of future character of the area!

The next paragraph in the SEE is selective, stating “residential flat buildings are located immediately to the east of the site” but not mentioning the low density residential development and heritage dwellings surrounding the site in all other directions.  As discussed above, the 40 year old flat buildings to the east, facing Beecroft Rd, are in no way representative of the character of Beecroft and Cheltenham.  

History tells us that the Residential AS zoning was introduced precisely to prevent any more of that type of development, and thereby to protect the suburb’s heritage character and preserve the renowned environmental qualities throughout the suburb.  The only subsequent high rise permitted was The Bentley, which replaced a very old and dilapidated three storey block (the disused former Masonic Hall) with a smart new three storey building, which can hardly be criticised.

Heritage Impact Statement

 The HIS follows a similar line of selective evaluation with emphasis in certain paragraphs downplaying heritage elements.  Under Section 5.3 Contribution, the report dismisses three of the key heritage elements as “non representative”:

  • bushland within and surrounding “is not applicable”;
  • dominant character of the area is “no longer representative” of the conservation area; and
  • intactness of the early residential area is “no longer applicable” in the streets. 

If the area proposed for development is in poor condition, this is due to neglect by the owners.  Locals say that despite its condition the trees there currently provide habitat for all manner of bird species including gang gang parrots and other endangered species of wildlife.  

Once again there is a clearly selective emphasis in the report relating to specific local development such as the units facing Beecroft Road.  The three houses in 25 Hannah Street have not been subdivided and remain as a single title in accordance with the requirements of the Residential AS zoning.

The Trust strongly disagrees with the HIS evaluation against the LEP and Heritage DCP under section 5.5 and more so 5.6 respectively. For example under section 5.5, the objective of providing continuity with the past, there is a clear adverse impact on European heritage significance. With respect to development in the vicinity of heritage items and heritage conservation areas, the report provides no opinion at all, except to state that “it is Council’s decision”.  Indeed it is, and the Council should clearly decide against allowing the application to go forward.

Similarly the Trust disagrees with many of the comments under Section 5.6, considering them to be selective and subjective. The Trust sees little point in continuing to quote individual examples, but is happy to do so if required.   

Second Response

Given the limited time made available for consultation and responding, this first response is focused on the issue of character of the proposed development.  A second submission will be forwarded shortly covering many other aspects of local concern.


In summary, DA1305 is full of selective and subjective statements which do not stand up to rigorous assessment.  Approving the application would be totally counter to the wishes of the local population that the Council is tasked to represent as well as being counter to the requirements of the SEPP.


The Trust asserts that the proposed development demonstrably fails the required character test under clause 16A of the ARH SEPP and for this and many other reasons the proposed development must be recommended for refusal.

Yours sincerely,  

Peter Hewitt

Beecroft Cheltenham Civic Trust

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