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Monday, 11 March 2024 22:48

Lourdes development application is refused

A planning proposal for the redevelopment of the Lourdes Retirement Village at the end of Stanhope Road in Killara was first submitted in February 2018. The proposal was to rezone the site from R2 low density to R3 medium density residential. The proponent also sought to amend the usual R3 maximum building heights to heights ranging from 9.5 to 22 m; and amend the maximum FSR from 0.3:1 to 0.75:1 under Ku-ring-gai LEP 2015.

The key objective of the planning proposal was to facilitate the redevelopment of the site to increase the number of dwellings for seniors housing and make improvements to the current facilities that are very rundown.

Ku-ring-gai Council refused the application mainly on the grounds of bushfire risk and its inappropriate location for the planned expansion of seniors housing including a building six to seven stories. Therefore the application had to go through the Sydney North Planning Panel (SNPP).

The proposal was reviewed by the SNPP and progressed into the gateway determination process in November 2018. The Department of Planning then engaged in discussions with the proponent, Levande, aimed at addressing some of the concerns about the project. In May 2022 the department made a gateway determination that the planning proposal could proceed to the development application stage subject to a long list of required amendments and consultation with authorities and public exhibition. These were to be submitted to the department for review and endorsement prior to public exhibition in September 2022. Finally, prior to the final panel hearing, further amendments were made including a change to zoning of the site to include a strip of C2 land (environment conservation) and updates on reports.

Throughout this prolonged process Ku-ring-gai Council has pointed out shortcomings in the plans particularly in relation to bushfire risk. They disagreed with the consultant’s statements that the site has low fire risk and that satisfactory protection measures can be engineered during the detailed DA stage.

These statements were effectively endorsed by the RFS without any independent review. The RFS did not explain the basis for their support and did not object to the plans stating that issues could be sorted out in the DA stage.

The protection measures involved the construction of townhouses that would act as a special fire protection facility. In other words, a buffer protecting the high rise part of the site that would be an aged-care facility. However, the purchasers of these townhouses could have the same dependency and accessibility issues as the residents of the aged-care component of the site.

The final SNPP hearing occurred in December. Many residents of Lourdes and members of community groups including FOKE and STEP presented to the hearing. Ku-ring-gai Council made a detailed presentation criticising the bushfire reports and many other aspects of the project plans and consultants’ reports.

We were all relieved when the panel decided to reject the proposal unanimously and requested that the previous decision to agree to the gateway determination to amend the LEP no longer proceed.

The SNPP reason for their decision was primarily that the solution for bushfire risk was not appropriate. They did acknowledge that the site provided desirable facilities and needed to be upgraded and made some suggestions of alterations that could improve the planning outcome.

This is not the absolute end to the proposal. The minister makes the final decision about what happens next.