11 September 2023

Apartments on the way for dual-occupancy sites but restrictions apply under new Territory Plan

| Claire Fenwicke
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Lake Burley Griffin in autumn looking out to Telstra Tower

Expect to see more housing in our inner suburbs with changes to residential zoning rules under the new Territory Plan. Photo: CIMF.

The ‘missing middle’ of Canberra will have the chance to be filled under changes in the new Territory Plan.

The ACT Government has today (Monday, 11 September) released its new plan, updated district strategies and new design guides in an effort to support more housing while understanding the planning and design elements Canberrans want to see retained.

Dual-occupancy developments will now be extended to Residential Zone 1 (RZ1), to allow for more dwellings on Canberra’s larger blocks.

While no modelling numbers are available, it’s understood this could add at least 100,000 more homes to the Territory.

However, there is a catch: it’s only for larger blocks of more than 800 square metres, and the dwelling can only reach up to 120 square metres in size (excluding a garage). The block will also be able to be unit-titled.

Chief Planner Ben Ponton said the size restriction was about addressing some of Canberra’s affordable housing issues.

“[The size] equates to what you might see in a townhouse or apartment for a three-bedroom, so we’re targeting that size but providing for that standalone residence,” he said.

“So that’s adding to housing choice but also providing opportunities for apartment buildings as well.”

Requirements will also be enforced on these new developments, such as mandatory site coverage provisions and the requirement for soft landscaping and tree planting.

If you already have dual occupancy on a block and want to change that to an apartment building, you’ll need to get approval.

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Another change covering RZ2 to RZ5 zones is the allowance for subdivisions, with apartment buildings also to be allowed in RZ2.

But this won’t translate into high-rises in the suburbs, as unit buildings in the RZ2 areas won’t be allowed to exceed two storeys in height.

“At the moment you can have dual occupancies, which tend to be townhouses [in this zone], but you can’t have an apartment because the [zone rules state] the living area has to have access at ground level to the open space,” Mr Ponton said.

“So that will change to allow apartments, essentially a unit on the ground floor and one above, so the height limit has not changed.”

The strategies and plans have also tried to address concerns additional buildings in the inner suburbs will put a strain on amenities, aesthetics and green spaces.

Five key drivers and directions of the documents were keeping blue-green networks in the suburbs, having sustainable neighbourhoods, inclusive centres and communities, economic access and opportunities across the city, and strategic movement to support city growth.

The district strategies map has identified where it’s important to maintain green space, with Planning and Urban Policy executive branch manager Freya O’Brien explaining the Urban Design Guide would also help developers ensure they were doing more than simply constructing a building and leaving.

“[We heard some] developments have happened and stopped at the boundary, and they didn’t really seem to respect or relate very well to their context,” she said.

“So it’s about contributing better to your surrounds and context, and to consider what is the public wrap-around … we’re really trying to get developers, and people when they’re looking at changes in their areas, to look at it at a much more integrated, holistic scale.

“So it’s not just ‘here’s my site, I can put this on it and not worry about what’s around it’, and that value actually comes back to the development and for the people who live in it.”

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Changes have also been made to the development application (DA) process, with the final documents to be made available next week.

The pre-DA community consultation step has been removed, and replaced with a second public notification period for significant developments.

Timeframes for consultation have also been altered, with the DA for significant developments to be notified for 20 business days, and then notified again for another 10-day working period.

“This new process will allow the community to have multiple opportunities to comment on the proposals for significant developments,” Ms O’Brien said.

“It essentially doubles the public notification timeframes.”

The public notification system for all other DAs will remain the same at 15 working days.

An additional step has been added for ‘pre-decision advice for refusal’, where it’s expected a DA could fail.

It’s expected this will be used for minor issues rather than DAs that need a rehaul, so that the application doesn’t have to start from scratch.

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A motion will be moved in the Legislative Assembly tomorrow (Tuesday, 12 September) for the government to accept the new documents.

If everything is approved, it’s expected to commence on 27 November.

A training and education program will be rolled out in the coming months.

To find out more, head to the ACT Government’s planning website.

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NIMBYs out out in force today.

devils_advocate9:54 am 12 Sep 23

You realise nobody is *forcing* them to build secondary residences in their back yards?

In RZ1, It’s only an option that is available if they want, and their block meets the relevant size, dimensions and other requirements necessary to get a DA through.

In RZ2 I don’t see how the change to allow horizontals strata-ing will impact anything in the absence of changes to how many dwellings are permitted, height and storey limits, setbacks and solar envelopes and plot ratios etc

Yeah can’t wait more infill more cars parked out on the street, don’t worry about the people that. Live there already

More multi-story eyesores

Futureproof, you should read before commenting.

devils_advocate9:58 am 12 Sep 23

“More multi-story eyesores”

Really? Talk us through in detail how these changes impact on the prevalence of multi-storey buildings in either Rz1 or rz2, relative to what is already in place.

Don’t spare the detail now!

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