Is an extra 5.38 meters – too high?

Our Councillors will be asked to approve a building height variation in Northbridge that is 5.38 meters higher than the maximum allowed under our Local Environmental Plan – WLEP 2012.

The developer of the Orana site (the old CBA site) seek, amongst other things, for Council to endorse the following modifications:
Increase in building height to 19.38 meters (Councilors had previously approved 18.5 meters – WLEP 2012 allows a maximum 14 meters).
Increase in Floors Space Ratio to 2.259:1 (Councilors had previously approved 2.249:1 – WLEP 2012 allows a maximum 2.0:1).

Brief Background:

Northbridge Town Centre Master Plan (NTCMP)

Back in 2001, a community consultation was initiated regarding the need to expedite a Masterplan that would outline how we, the community, wished Northbridge to develop into the future. The discussion catalyst was the recent development of 3 sites – one of which was “Castlegardens”.
The NTCMP refers to this issue in its paragraph on Building Heights where it says:

Although there is, a 9-meter height limit (which was later changed to 14 meters) recent developments and DA’s have exceeded this height and affected the character scale and amenity of the precinct.

The Northbridge Town Centre Masterplan was drawn up in 2003 – giving direction to the application of WLEP 2012, to our area.

AW Edwards – revisited

In March 2015, owners of the AW Edwards building, a building which adjoins Castlegardens on the western side, sought to increase the height of their building to 18 meters. They argued that the NTCMP did not apply to them as their development was an addition (not a new development) and that the established height, at the peak of the lift overrun, was already near 18m.
The AWEdwards building was approved – the above argument being a key determinant.

The NPA remained unconvinced by Councils decision – stating in a submission –

Our main issue is the precedent being established by this which we see as having further ramifications to the future development within Northbridge.

Orana – Version 1.

Despite Councillors assurance that –

  • a precedent had not been previously set by the AW Edwards development; and
  • that the NTCMP and WLEP 2012 would apply to any new construction – Councillors again approved the original height of Orana.

The NPA argued that:

This practice (of increasing the building height above the limits set forth within WLEP 2012) is an issue that the NPA is strongly opposed to.

The history of the incremental increase in height of a “Lift Tower” has set a precedent in an adjoining building in so much as to be used as justification to increase incrementally the height of other buildings in this area. The NPA again reiterates its strong opposition to this practice.
With recent technological developments in building practices, we understand that the need for “Lift Towers” is no longer needed. This adds further evidence to concerns about development creep.

Current Modifications

The applicant has now submitted modifications to their original plan.

In regard the height of the building –

the applicant has sought to increase the lift overrun resulting in an increase in the height of the lift overrun and plant room of a further 0.88m

The Council officers report states that –

“the increase in the height of the lift overrun and plant room is not considered to have unreasonable impacts regarding overshadowing, loss of views or visual intrusion.”

(this may be so, but the AW Edwards experience taught us that this is a classic ruse of the developer to obtain unrestricted increases in height of the building that can be employed in the future.)

WLEP 2012, Clause 4.6 (4)(ii) States:

(4) Development consent must not be granted for development that contravenes a development standard unless:
(a) the consent authority is satisfied that:
(ii) the proposed development will be in the public interest because it is consistent with the objectives of the particular standard and the objectives for development within the zone in which the development is proposed to be carried out.

The Council Officer sums up by saying –

“The relevant objectives of the height development control are satisfied because the approved building is mostly unaltered”

“the additional breaches are minor in nature, and are not considered to cause additional impacts to the environment or adjoining and surrounding properties”

The NPA see no point in Council establishing a Local Environmental Plan (LEP) if it then plans to ignore it. As you can well appreciate, there is no point in developing a long-term vision for a city or town Centre – if Council recommends contravening it at the first opportunity.

We are in favour of appropriate development. We are, though, firmly opposed to Council relinquishing the established development controls and, therefore, “opening the door” to further unrestricted building height in Northbridge Town Centre in the years to come.

As we write – another development (yet to be discussed) is seeking approval for an extension to the height limits – using Orana, as a precedent.

This section is intended for constructive and respectful discussion of Northbridge community issues. All comments are moderated before appearing on the site.