A submission prepared by Hones Lawyers on behalf of 12 members of the public questioned whether a section 75W Modification is the correct planning process to give effect to the changes being contemplated on the site under the Concept Plan Modification.
An assessment has therefore been undertaken below to compare and contrast the Concept Plan and the proposed Modification to assist the Minister (or their delegate) to better consider the availability of the section 75W to serve as the appropriate planning mechanism.
DGRs and Environmental assessment commonalities between the Concept Plan and the proposed Modification (Mod 1)
The then Director General of the Department issued requirements for the preparation of the environmental assessment to accompany the original Concept Plan. The Director Generals Requirements (DGRs) required the Proponent to address, in detail, each of the relevant requirements previously issued under the EP&A Act in relation to the preparation of the environmental assessment that accompanied the original Shell Cove Concept Plan.
The exhibited environmental assessment and additional assessment provided as part of this Response to Submissions demonstrates that the Modification does not result in environmental and other consequences that were significantly different to those approved under the Concept Plan.
The submission specifically raised the absence of the assessment of views external to the site in the original and proposed modification. A detailed view loss assessment is now provided at Appendix D. The assessment considers the impacts of the proposed changes in built form between the approved and proposed modification in order to allow the Minister to assess the likely impacts of the changes.
Strategic planning commonalities between the Concept Plan and Mod 1
The Concept Plan and Mod 1 have the following strategic planning commonalities:
- The overall range of land use types to be provided on the site, namely the creation of a new predominantly residential focused precinct centred around a new town centre that also incorporates retail, tourist, community, employment and recreation uses.
- The overall urban structure and public domain concept, namely public open space concentrated around the boat harbour and wetlands to the north and west of the town centre, with residential areas across the remainder of the site and a business park within the Quarry Buffer Zone.
- The overall built form strategy to provide mid-rise apartments in the Town Centre, low to mid rise apartments and/ or terraces on the waterfront, dropping back to lower density terraces and houses further away from the waterfront.
The above items are fundamental elements of the approved strategic development outcomes for Shell Cove, and are significant to the extent that they encapsulate the underlying purpose of the project as a whole, and also the manner in which the project is intended to be implemented.
Importantly, there are no differences between the Concept Plan and Mod 1 that affect the fundamental strategic planning elements of the approved development outcomes for Shell Cove that are identified above.
Physical commonalities and differences between the Concept Plan and Mod 1
The Concept Plan and Mod 1 have the following physical development commonalities:
- approximately 8.5 hectares of usable public open space;
- continual public pedestrian access to the boat harbour waterfront via a series of parks and boardwalks;
- open space / parklands proposed through a series of wetlands around the town centre;
- provision of a new town centre in Precinct D, including a landmark hotel building, community facilities, retail and commercial uses, harbour square;
- provision of a „main street‟ connecting Harbour Boulevard to the waterfront promenade;
- predominantly residential uses in Precincts A, B, C, E, F, G and H, with low to mid rise apartments and/ or terraces on the waterfront, dropping back to lower density terraces and houses further away from the waterfront;
- the overarching road hierarchy and design;
- a business park located in the Quarry Buffer Zone with a maximum GFA of 30,000m2;
- the strategy and general location for drainage and stormwater infrastructure; and
- the maximum building heights within Precincts E, F and G.
The main physical differences from a planning perspective between the Concept Plan and Mod 1 are:
- An increase in area of the site of approximately 5850m2 representing an overall increase of 0.006%. This increase relative to the total area of the 100 hectare site is negligible.
- An increase in the total number of dwellings to be accommodated within the Shell Cove site of 318, representing an overall increase of approximately 25%. The increase in the number of dwellings is relatively minor, noting:
− the site area has also been expanded;
− a large number of the additional dwellings will be provided in the town centre which was always intended to accommodate greater density compared to the rest of the site;
− the change in dwelling typologies means a greater number of dwellings can be achieved within the same footprint; and
− the increase strengthens the achievement of the original strategies discussed further below.
- A one to two storey increase in the height of buildings in parts of Precincts B, C and D. The increase in height is minor and does not change the built form character (see Section 2.3)
- Increasing the landmark hotel building from 9 up to 11 storeys in the town centre. Despite its physical relocation and change in form, the intent in the Concept Plan for the hotel to be a landmark building remains consistent.
- Minor refinements to the road pattern and layout to improve the relationship of the built form with the waterfront and improve pedestrian amenity and on-street parking.
Whilst there are physical changes, relevantly, the Concept Plan, as approved, establishes a planning framework that has, as an overarching objective, the delivery of:
- an entirely new and significant area for the Illawarra region, with a critical mass to contribute to the diversification of the economic base of the Illawarra by providing opportunities for tourism, recreational boating and marine activities, and commercial facilities;
- a significant number of new dwellings in the Illawarra in line with the strategic targets established for the region;
- appropriate densities to contribute to enhanced sustainable development outcomes as the mixed use characteristics of the neighbourhood will encourage walkability and efficient utilisation of infrastructure and services
- net environmental benefits including construction of the Myimbarr Wetlands and measures to enhance improvement of surface water quality runoff;
- significant open space for residents, workers and visitors.
Any modification proposal that seeks to provide additional dwellings at Shell Cove to support and / or strengthen implementation of the above strategies would, be clearly within the scope of the development concept as contemplated and approved by the PAC as part of the Concept Plan. Therefore the actual quantum of dwellings, or the height of buildings proposed is of lesser significance in this circumstance than is the question of whether or not the resultant development will still deliver on the underlying objectives of the Shell Cove Concept Plan, as approved.
Shell Cove is a major project intended to create a new coastal town centre and residential development by the creation of an entirely new and significant (in terms of dwellings) precinct that creates housing and commercial growth opportunities in the Illawarra region.
The proposed modification will be of limited environmental consequence when compared to the approved Concept Plan having regard to the impacts assessed within this PPR (including within section 2) and the exhibited EAR and accompanying technical reports.
For the reasons set out above, it is open to the Minister (or his delegate) to be reasonably satisfied that the Concept Plan (Mod 1) application is a modification that falls within the scope of section 75W.