NSW – Review of SEPP 65 and Draft Apartment Design Guide

SEPP 65 - Design Quality of Residential Flat Development was first introduced in NSW in 2002. Whilst there has been a notable improvement in the quality of apartments designed and constructed post-2002, the SEPP and accompanying policy have been much criticised for the manner in which they are practised – i.e. their tendency to be used as strict compliance tools rather than as a guide to achieve better design outcomes. Key elements of the recent proposed update of the SEPP and design guide include:

  • The new draft SEPP includes a range of “minimum requirements”.
  • Each specific design control is outlined in a highly structured manner, incorporating a range of ‘performance criteria’ for which an ‘acceptable solution’ is offered and, in some cases, an ‘alternative solution’. The wording is akin to a Development Control Plan (DCP) or the BCA.
  • A numeric minimum (i.e. 20%) is proposed for the amount of sunlight that must be provided to adjoining developments which currently do not have access to 3 hours of sunlight.
  • Existing building to building separation requirements are replaced with minimum boundary setbacks. New buildings that adjoin low rise projects must increase their separation by 3m.
  • No parking is required to be provided for new RFBs located within the Sydney CBD, or inner city LGAs, for sites that are within 400m of a railway or light rail station. For sites beyond the Sydney CBD or inner city LGAs, Roads and Maritime Service (RMS) parking requirements apply. These are typically less demanding that local council parking requirements. Compliance with these parking controls will become a new ‘reason for which a DA cannot be refused’.
  • A new chapter on ‘universal design’ is introduced.
  • A new requirement is proposed which limits the number of apartments without access to direct sunlight to 15% of all apartments in a proposed building.
  • The draft SEPP proposes a new control which limits the number of apartments accessible from one single circulation core to 8.
  • The design guide rationalises ‘minimum’ apartment sizes.
  • A new ‘head height to apartment depth’ criterion is proposed to regulate sunlight access and apartment depth.
  • For new buildings above 9 storeys, verification is required that 60% of proposed units achieve adequate cross flow ventilation.
  • The measure of maximum building depth is proposed to include balconies.

Many of the proposed changes will impact directly on apartment configurations and project yields.

Submissions on the proposed changes closed in October 2014. A final SEPP is expected to be made in mid-2015.

About MacroPlan: MacroPlan provides a range of planning services from pre-acquisition due diligence, strategic assessment and conceptual planning through to rezoning and development approval and project implementation.  Our planners work with our in-house economists and analysts (and other consultant experts) to evaluate social, economic and environmental factors that contribute to the success of projects.  Our multi-disciplinary approach delivers outcomes that focus on evidence, identifying development opportunities and optimal project outcomes, and clarifying pathways to achieving development approval.  Contact Wayne Gersbach – General Manager NSW today to discuss your property research requirements.