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Council must ensure public goals are met as a priority

The comment, in the draft Housing Strategy report on bonus density provisions for residential developments is an interesting one ("Bonus height provisions 'may not have desired outcomes'", PN Extra, February 7).

All of the Council's development standards are unnecessarily complicated and, in many cases, inconsistent.

So it is not surprising that the height provisions are completely arbitrary and without any clear definition of their objectives, meaning that the consultant's warning that the present provisions might be ineffective will come as no surprise.

It would be going too far to say that the multiplicity of unnecessary controls is the main reason that practically every development on the Peninsula fails to comply with regulations.

But it doesn't help that so many standards seem to be in conflict and to lack any discernible purpose.

One of the problems is the obsession with building heights, as though the height of a building is the main factor in ensuring desirable living conditions for residents and an attractive environment for the community.

Linking "height" bonuses to the size of the lot will not ensure a better design outcome: It will merely encourage developers to use the maximum building envelope, without any consideration for outlook, sun and light penetration or shadowing effect.

What is needed is to link the floor space ratio to the footprint of the building, so that height increases as site coverage decreases.

This means that the developer gets a bonus for providing more open space on the site, and there will be less overshadowing of adjoining properties, because of the building's slimmer profile.

Higher-density buildings should be clustered around railway stations, bus stops and shopping areas, so as to maximize pedestrian access to these traffic magnets.

What would also be desirable would be to scatter small industrial undertakings close to residential areas, so that journey-to-work movements can be minimized.

Because of Central Coast's unique topographical characteristics, economical bus services will always be a problem.

This means that large industrial areas must inevitably generate high volumes of car traffic, putting the much-vaunted goal of a "15-minute city" permanently out of reach.

Of course, nothing will be achieved as long as the Council sits on its hands and trails along behind private-developer trends.

Private developers will always take the easiest and most immediately profitable line.

What is needed is proactive initiative from Council, to ensure that public goals are met as a priority, not as a second thought.

There has never been any sign of this in the past, but we can always hope.

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