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Property developers will have to show the impact of building projects on the spiritual health of residents in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, amid claims a local council is pandering to selfish Baby Boomers and retirees.
The social context of an area surrounding a project, including Indigenous history, susceptibility to climate change and population of minority and vulnerable groups, will also be considered under Waverley Council’s social impact assessments.
The social impact of building projects in Sydney’s eastern suburbs will be assessed under new council guidelines, amid growing concern about overdevelopment.Credit:Edwina Pickles
The new guidelines have been slammed by the head of developers’ lobby group Urban Taskforce, Tom Forrest, as a backdoor for further resistance to building homes.
“The notion that the planning assessment process can possibly take into account the spiritual sensibilities of a wide range of residents is absurd,” he said.
A council spokeswoman said the social impacts of development and planning decisions should be considered as well environmental and economic.
She said a social impact assessment might reveal that an area has too many backpacker hostels, pubs and clubs. “It can indicate if there is a lack of certain types of uses (e.g. affordable housing or mechanics) in an area, where the loss of any more may not be in the public interest.”
The council’s list of desired social outcomes includes the provision of affordable washing and drying facilities where a high number of small units are planned.
Spiritual health, psychological stress and social isolation are factors that should be considered in planning decisions under the council’s guidelines.
“A planning proposal or development application would generally not be rejected on the findings of a social impact assessment in isolation,” she said.
But Forrest said the council’s social impact guidelines will add cost and risk to building new homes.
“The only aim that this will achieve is to thwart development, increase the cost of housing and generally restrict those wanting to buy a home in the Waverley [local government area],” he said.
Plans to build apartment buildings, pubs, boarding houses and backpackers’ hostels may all trigger a social impact assessment as well as building projects over $10 million or have a gross floor area of more than 3000 square metres.
The social impact of a project will also be required if it proposes a loss of low-rental homes or reduction of dwellings on a site.
The council’s insistence on social impact assessments follows a decision to hire a $100,000-a-year community planning advocate to help residents fight development proposals amid growing opposition to apartment towers.
Forrest said residents already have the right to have a say on any proposal. “To use ratepayers money to employ someone to help write submissions opposing development reflects a negative, unconstructive approach from Waverley Council.”
Resistance to development seemed to be inversely related to the economic prosperity and average age of any particular suburb, Forrest said.
“It is disturbing that much of the resistance to development is coming from retirees and Baby Boomers whose selfishness results in the exclusion of the young, and of those on lower incomes to these privileged areas.”
Liberal candidate for Vaucluse Kellie Sloane has said the eastern suburbs should not be “punished” with more housing, amid growing concerns about overdevelopment ahead of the 2023 state election.
A Local Government NSW spokesman said Waverley Council’s social impact guidelines created greater clarity and certainty for property developers and how they can reduce the negative impacts of projects.
Liverpool City Council also requires some building projects to undergo a social impact assessment, while the Planning Department has published a social impact assessment guideline for state significant projects.
“Undertaking this process properly can reduce project risks, costs and delays, by enabling proponents to understand community sentiment early, so they can refine projects to resolve issues, or manage and mitigate impacts in the progression of their proposal,” a spokeswoman said.
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