Lennox Head’s explosive population growth shows no sign of slowing down, with the approval at Ballina Shire Council’s last meeting of the latest planning proposal for Lennox Rise.
This is the development previously known as ‘The Outlook’. Before that it was the Henderson farm. It covers the land west and north of the playing fields at Epiq, plus another parcel adjoining Byron Bay Road further north.
The latest modification to the proposed arrangement of lot layouts and roads protects a heritage drystone wall, which is now intended to be retained within council managed public land.
Moving the motion with the support of Cr Eoin Johnston, Cr Sharon Cadwallader acknowledged the work done to date, and said the staff’s ‘recommendation to approve today would be right.’
Lots and superlots
Matt Wood from Ballina Council’s planning and environmental health division said that since the previous version of the proposal, the number of standard residential lots had been reduced from 159 to 138, but with a further 11 superlots to be further broken up, ‘there might be more than 138 lots at the end, we don’t know yet.’
Cr Ben Smith said, ‘I liked all the changes, they were all pretty rational. It all looked really good.’
Mayor David Wright said, ‘When you drive past there it’s a difficult site, always has been.’
He congratulated himself and the council on their earlier decision ‘to put Hutley Drive where it is rather than through that estate.’
The motion to accept the modified plan was carried unanimously.
This discussion was followed immediately by another motion relating to Lennox Rise, this time to apply a minimum 450 square metre lot size to parts of the development,
Speaking in support, Cr Cadwallader said, ‘Unfortunately, large lots are a thing of the past. Clever designs are putting more on smaller blocks. With our population that is what we need.
‘This is a much improved design which preserves the heritage aspect of the site,’ she said. ‘I think it’s worthy of support today. It’s consistent with the Strategic Planning Framework that’s applicable to the site.’
Integrated development or individual council lots?
Cr Keith Williams spoke against lot sizes smaller than 600 square metres, suggesting that an integrated development approach was superior (where developers take responsibility for managing small residential lots within larger developments), rather than it being council’s responsibility.
He also noted that ‘green space can suffer’ by allowing developers to subdivide to 450 square metres.
‘We need to understand – and this is the argument I’ve had in this place for many years – that planning proposals are entirely at our discretion,’ said Cr Williams.
‘There is no weight of government bearing down on us, to say you must approve this. This is not a DA. They do not have the right to do this unless we give it to them.
‘What we do by giving it to them, essentially, allows them to create wealth out of that land development process.
‘What we should not do, is end up with the risk of badly designed, non-integrated developments that are done piecemeal, which is what 450 lots mean to me.’
Cr Williams said that if people were jammed into places without the ‘thoughtfulness’ that goes into an integrated development, questions arose such as ‘How is this going to work? How do we get people to enjoy this living space? How do we provide common areas?’
He said that 450 square metre individual blocks lacked integrated common areas.
‘If there are common areas, they’ll then be public land and we will be maintaining them. That’s an issue, that they are not then part of the development and they are not maintained by a body corporate. If we require these to be integrated developments, that’s part of the process, and that’s part of the thinking that needs to occur, by the developer,’ he said.
‘For too long we’ve looked at regional plans that say “You must allow”. I think it’s appalling that the regional growth strategy is that we should approve 40% of lots at less than this size.’
NSW government rules
Matt Wood confirmed that the state government has a target in the regional plan which is 40% infill, to encourage higher density.
Cr Williams said that while he accepted the state target, he didn’t accept the way to achieve it was with individual 450 square metre lots.
‘We end up creating more problems,’ he said. ‘I’m quite happy to defer this and have a talk about it.’
He invited his fellow councillors to pause a decision and have a longer discussion about the issue, but none of them took him up on it.
Cr Ben Smith said, ‘I’m not a fan of the 450 square metre lot, but there’s a reason for them, and we can’t change state government rules.
‘There is a rationale, they haven’t just chucked as many 450 square lots as they can, they have thought about it,’ he said.
‘Housing is getting expensive, and there are some people where that specific lot will be very appropriate,’ he said.
‘Maybe they have one car and don’t want backyards and don’t want to deal with strata?’
Small blocks or flats?
Cr Phillip Meehan agreed, saying smaller lots were part of the reality of modern housing, and a better alternative than blocks of flats, which ‘our community doesn’t want to see.’
He argued infilling was a better alternative than urban sprawl.
Taking a trip down memory lane, Mayor David Wright said, ‘I was sitting in this chamber 30 years ago and we were fighting for 1200 square metre lots, and that came back to 800.
‘There have been big changes since those days. There is a place for 450s. People can choose or not to live there.’
Deputy Mayor Sharon Cadwallader agreed, saying, ‘This is the way of the future, whether we like it or not, this is where it’s going.’
In the end, the motion to allow the smaller blocks was carried, with only Crs Keith Williams and Jeff Johnson voting against.