“No more backyards”: Penrith Council to reject State Government’s housing plans

Housing plans are under fire in Penrith. Generic stock image.
Share this story

Penrith would “dramatically change” if the State Government went ahead with plans to speedily boost housing supply in the area.

That was the warning from veteran Penrith Councillor Mark Davies on Monday night as Council considered its response to two separate government documents focused on housing supply issues.

Council has raised significant concerns that it its planning policies would essentially be overridden by new State Government policies, resulting in an extraordinary number of new dwellings in Penrith without proper infrastructure attached.

Under the State Government’s plans, more than 90 per cent of the 44,731 lots zoned R2 in Penrith could be torn up with dual occupancies created.

“No more backyards and only one car space per dwelling,” Davies warned.

“Can you imagine the chaos on the streets here in Penrith when you’ve got one car space per dwelling?”

Penrith Deputy Mayor Mark Davies. Photo: Megan Dunn.

The Department of Planning, Housing and Infrastructure (DPHI) are currently exhibiting an Explanation of Intended Effect (EIE) which proposes to create additional low and mid-rise housing opportunities and have also released a Transport Orientated Development (TOD) Program that will specifically apply to St Marys.

The TOD Program in St Marys will mandate Residential Flat Buildings (RFBs) as permissible development in all residential zones (R2, R3 and R4) within 400 metres of the train station, and will override Council’s existing land use controls in relation to maximum building height, floor space ratio, minimum lot size and width and car parking rates.

“The proposed reforms will significantly impact the ability of Council to provide infrastructure in the context of a maturing City that has historically produced a significant volume of housing,” a report to Councillors on Monday night said.

“Council will continue to work with industry to deliver housing and has a significant pipeline of housing supply.  Council does not support any policy that only focuses on housing and ignores the very real needs of Penrith residents in terms of employment opportunities, access to recreation opportunities and improved accessibility.”

Of significant concern to Council is proposed changes to dual occupancy that would “represent a significant variation to Penrith’s existing standards when the consequences of reducing the minimum lot size and reducing car parking rates are considered in the Penrith context,” the report said.

“The reforms have not considered local context and constraints and have no regard for existing urban opportunities such as heritage and encouraging the development of town centres and places.”

Within the Penrith Local Government Area there are 44,731 lots zoned R2. Under the current minimum lot size controls, 19,768 of these lots or 44 per cent have dual occupancy potential. By reducing the minimum lot size to 450m2, as is being proposed, an additional 21,347 lots in the R2 zone will have dual occupancy potential, expanding eligibility to approximately 92 per cent of all lots zoned R2.

“This does not account for residential lots that will be created in new release areas that have not yet been subdivided (Glenmore Park and Orchard Hills North) where take up of dual occupancy as a new build may be more attractive, significantly eroding Council’s growth planning,” the report said.

“Council requests the retention of the existing dual occupancy controls in Penrith LEP given the potential scale of growth that could occur as a result of the proposed amendments and the uncertainty with regard to their impact on flood planning and infrastructure provision.”

In its response to the proposals, Council argues that the controls are premature in the Penrith Local Government Area context and the City needs a more nuanced approach in order to address matters such as equitable access to employment opportunities and infrastructure before significant infill development beyond that already planned can occur.

On Monday night, Councillors agreed on lengthy submissions to DPHI.

They also requested Penrith be exempt from the NSW Government’s Explanation of Intended Effect in the Transport Orientated Development Program.

Mayor Todd Carney will write to the Premier to communicate Council’s request to be exempt from the new planning controls.

“Penrith Council has already been ahead of its game in terms of understanding what its requirements and responsibilities are and we’ve put in place our housing strategy. It’s a comprehensive strategy and is vastly more comprehensive than what the State Government is proposing,” Deputy Mayor Davies said.

Councillor Mark Davies.

“We need to take a really strong stand here because what is being proposed in these policies… it’s very important the community understands the landscape of our own environment is going to absolutely dramatically change.

“What these proposed planning policies are proposing does not consider [anything] other than dwellings and it’s a huge number of dwellings.

“We’re carrying our load. We’re doing our part. We’re being responsible. We all agree there’s a housing supply problem but Penrith is on the money. We’re doing our job.

“This is going to change the landscape of Penrith.”

Davies said the proposals allowed Penrith’s boarding house issue – which was prominent in Kingswood – to explode.

“This is on steroids now,” he declared.

Davies raised concerns that fellow Councillor and State Member for Penrith, Karen McKeown, had not stood up on the issue.

“I haven’t heard anything and I think it’s a great shame. I encourage the Member for Penrith stand up and outline the concerns this policy has. Because there’s great concerns,” he said.

“It’s going to change and dramatically degrade the quality of life for so many people in our city.”

Councillor Ross Fowler commended Council officers on their response to the Government’s proposals.

He raised significant concerns over a lack of support for jobs, infrastructure and services in the government’s proposals.

Ross Fowler. Photo: Megan Dunn.

“My fear is the amenity of this city will decline should these draconian ideas prevail,” he said.

“What we have now is the makings of a serious mistake caused by not taking proper care and not thinking clearly.”

Labor Councillor John Thain raised concerns that Council was “throwing the baby out with the bath water” in regards to its response.

“There needs to be proper negotiation,” he said, adding he thought some of the comments of Liberal Councillors amounted to a “political stunt”.

Davies argued the government’s proposals could create “housing ghettos” in Penrith.

“This is about Council being steamrolled,” he said.

“I’m struggling to find the baby in the bath water.”

Councillor John Thain at the corner of The Kingsway and Werrington Road. Photo: Melinda Jane.

Share this story