The Value of Neighbourhood Character.

 The proposed boarding house

The proposed boarding house

Preserving the qualities that distinguish suburbs from other areas remains of critical importance in light of proposed development sites on the Central Coast. 

Last year an appeal was heard in the Land and Environment Court of NSW (L&E) in relation to the development application proposed at 302 Ocean View Road, Ettalong Beach. The appeal case, Elias & Anor v Gosford City Council, reinforced the importance of development plans complying with the existing ambiance of the surrounding area and neighbourhood.

The applicants’ proposed development application to construct a mixed use development, comprising of retail premises, a café and a boarding house at the Ettalong Beach address was met with public outcry, with the original application receiving over 1000 objections from the local community.

In a bid to stop the development application, the local community raised several objections with Gosford City Council. Specifically the community argued that the boarding house would devalue the area, with a belief that the site would be used for short term accommodation for people in need and would result in antisocial behaviour and increased crime. Further objections regarding limited facilities, public transport and access to jobs for the occupants of the boarding house were also raised. The community’s most effective arguments were that the proposal would be out of character with the area, which would result in unacceptable privacy impacts to adjoining residents, inadequate on-site parking and an increase in the traffic congestion that already exists in the area.

After several amendments to the initial development plans by the applicants, and a failed conciliation conference between the parties, the controversial development application underwent scrutiny earlier this month in the L & E Court. The Court held that the proposal was incompatible with the character of the local area thereby dismissing the appeal.

Importantly, the appeal decision was rooted in the ‘Desired Character’ for Ettalong Beach contained in Development Control Plan 159- Character (DCP 159), that states that the situated area of the development plans:

“…should remain mixed-density residential foreshores where the scenic quality of prominent backdrops to Gosford City’s coastal waterways is enhanced by new developments”

With this in mind, Commissioner Tuor held that the three storey proposed development’s scale and bulk would likely dominate the informal scenic qualities of the foreshore setting, highlighting that the infrastructure objectives for the town centre differ greatly to the location of the proposed development.

Despite the proposed development fitting within the numerical requirements for the zoning of the land, the plan’s compatibility with the area’s existing character proved to be the defining factor in the Commissioner’s decision. In particular, the Commissioner highlighted how the proposal constrained the provision of landscaping and provided no attributing features to an active street frontage between Ferry Road and Ocean Road.

Ultimately the decision in Elias & Anor v Gosford City Council reinforces the importance of maintaining the character of the local area and the increasing demand for developers to propose quality plans that appropriately conform with the existing and desired future character of the locality.