Minimum car spaces in new apartment developments near train stations are set to go under flagged changes to New South Wales’ State Environmental Planning Policy 65, in a move the government says could reduce purchase cost by at least $50,000.

The move, announced today (Tuesday) by the NSW government, reflects the growing move away from driving that Professor Peter Newman, director of Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute, says is a worldwide phenomenon.

The changes would remove minimum requirements for car parking for new apartment developments located in nominated inner and middle ring metropolitan areas of Sydney where they are within 400 metres of a railway station or light rail stop.

For developments located between 400-800 metres from a station, or for outer areas of Sydney within 400 metres of a station, the relevant minimum would become the requirement set out in the Roads and Maritime Services’ Guide to traffic generating development or the council’s requirements, whichever is less.

The government said car parking had been included in the SEPP 65 review because it was a significant cost that was passed on to buyers and a growing number of apartment residents were taking advantage of public or active transport, leading to less of a need for car parking.

“Data from the NSW Bureau of Transport Statistics presents a marked reduction in licence-holding among those aged 35 years and younger (the percentage of 25 year olds holding a licence dropped from 84 per cent in 1998 to 74 per cent in 2009),” a government release said. “Fewer licence holders are associated with higher levels of public transport use, walking and cycling.”

The government also said reduced car parking improved local traffic management and had associated health benefits.

The Urban Taskforce welcomed the proposed changes.

“The proposal to reduce car parking requirements for apartments within 400 metres of a rail station is an acknowledgement of the preference of many apartment dwellers to use public transport,” Urban Taskforce chief executive Chris Johnson said.

“The minimum requirements still allow more parking if the market supports this.”

Councils included in the inner and middle ring areas include Ashfield, Auburn, Bankstown, Botany Bay, Burwood, Canada Bay, Canterbury, City of Sydney, Hurstville, Kogarah, Lane Cove, Marrickville, Leichhardt, North Sydney, Parramatta (City Centre), Randwick, Rockdale, Ryde, Strathfield, Waverley, Willoughby and Woollahra.

Residential Flat Design Code to change

Mr Johnson said the biggest change for industry was the Residential Flat Design Code becoming the Apartment Design Guide.

“A guide gives much more flexibility in the interpretation of key design issues that supports innovation while achieving the outcomes.”

He said the previous design code had been “overridden” by councils wanting to set their own development standards.

Council development controls will not be able to be inconsistent with the Apartment Design Guide, Mr Johnson said.

“The planning policy specifically identifies standards that cannot be used as grounds to refuse development consent including ceiling height, apartment areas and car parking provisions.

“It is important that the state government sets these standards rather than allowing each individual council to have separate controls.”

Changes to the SEPP 65 policy include:

  • extending the policy so it applies to mixed-use development and shop-top housing of three or more storeys
  • giving councils the ability to appoint design review panels and to determine who is on the panel, where previously the minister appointed panels
  • making certain design criteria in the apartment design guide prevail over council requirements, to promote certainty and consistency
  • adding a car parking standard that removes or reduces car parking requirements for new apartment developments located in metropolitan Sydney and some regional centres, with council unable to refuse a development if it complies with this standard
  • confirming that apartment buildings being assessed under SEPP 65 also need to comply with BASIX

Changes to the Residential Flat Design Code include:

  • renaming it to the Apartment Design Guide to reflect a more flexible approach to design and to encourage more innovation, while ensuring that apartment buildings continue to incorporate the principles of good design
  • specific criteria and solutions for good design outcomes
  • greater flexibility for applicants to propose alternative design solutions in areas such as deep soil and open space, balconies, and apartment layout, to suit the needs of a particular development
  • a minimum size of 35 square metres for studio apartments (other minimum apartment sizes are already specified)
  • greater flexibility for applicants to reduce or remove car parking spaces, where there is good access to public transport and there is market demand to do so
  • criteria and solutions for managing external noise and for limiting noise transfer between apartments, buildings and their private open spaces

Submissions can be made on the proposal until 31 October.

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