Concerns over blanket housing reforms

The NSW Government has announced two housing reforms that represent significant change to the planning system in NSW, with major impacts on heritage.

The National Trust (NSW) acknowledges the need for more housing, however we are greatly concerned by the planned blanket reforms and their unintended impacts on the built and natural environment of NSW.

The National Trust has made a submission with the following points:

  • A one-size-fits-all approach will result in the loss of important natural and built locations across NSW.
  • The non-refusal standards propose to turn off all heritage and environmental controls that conflict with the new legislation. This is the biggest threat to heritage since the Heritage Act 1977 and Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 was introduced.
  • The National Trust calls for existing heritage and environmental protections to remain and for heritage to play a role in new development, avoiding unnecessary demolition of many already liveable or adaptable spaces.

The National Trust urge everyone to have their say by writing to their local member or the Minister for Planning.
Plus, share your comment as part of the Inquiry into the development of the Transport Oriented Development Program by 28 March.

Read more about the changes and concerns

On 7 December 2023 the NSW Government announced the Transport Oriented Development (TOD) program. This program involves state-led rezonings within 1200 metres of eight priority transport hubs in Sydney, and the rezoning of the land in a 400-metre radius around a further 31 Metro and suburban railway stations in NSW for more mid-rise housing and mixed-use development.

This change was not put on public exhibition for comment, and the NSW Government has advised that it is not intending to exhibit the draft State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) before it commences on 1 April 2024.

Detailed information on the criteria or analysis for selecting the stations slated for rezoning has not been provided, and the evidence for selecting these particular transport hubs has not been provided.

The National Trust (NSW) is greatly concerned for many areas, including those that contain an intact heritage streetscape where local planning controls, such as heritage, will be turned off for these projects.

The Changes to Create Low and Mid-Rise Housing policy builds upon the TOD model, expanding to an 800-metre radius around all light rail, heavy rail and metro stations throughout the Six Cities Region. The affected radius includes expansive areas of Sydney, and the land around rail corridors extending to Wollongong, Newcastle and the Blue Mountains. The National Trust has calculated that approximately two-thirds of the listed heritage items in NSW are located within these areas, and that heritage protections will be turned off.

The National Trust itself is custodian of places that fall within the bounds of these rezonings, including Old Government House, Experiment Farm Cottage, Woodford Academy, Miss Porter’s House, Grossmann & Brough Houses and the National Trust Centre.

The National Trust understands the need to look for ways to help solve the very real housing crisis in NSW by undertaking development in proximity to existing infrastructure, but the impact of these “one-size-fits-all” measures throughout the whole of NSW will be totally inappropriate for many of the unique town centres and villages that will be affected.

The National Trust is preparing a response requesting that the NSW Government recognises the need to consider detailed local planning, and continues to uphold the established controls that underpin the entire heritage and environmental planning system in NSW.

Heritage is one of the key drivers in creating the distinct character of many areas and that can help to inform “density done well”, however there is a legitimate concern that it will be the unintended victim of such wide-ranging reforms.

The National Trust made a submission in February 2024 expressing concerns over the blanket reforms and the unintended impacts. Read the submission.

Find out more

The National Trust (NSW) has been campaigning to protect NSW’s built, cultural and natural heritage for over 75 years. Find out more about our advocacy work.

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