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Helen Lochhead to chair Sydney Planning Panel

Helen Lochhead. Image: Jessica Lindsay
Helen Lochhead. Image: Jessica Lindsay

University of NSW Faculty of Built Environment dean Helen Lochhead has been appointed chair of the Sydney South Planning Panel.

The body is tasked with reviewing regionally significant development (projects valued more than $30 million), and can also play a role in planning proposals, undertaking rezoning reviews or to act as the relevant planning authority when directed.

The Sydney South panel will oversee major development in the Canterbury-Bankstown, Georges River and Sutherland local government areas.

“Sydney is considered one of the world’s most liveable cities, but the challenge is to make sure it stays that way,” Professor Lochhead said.

“South-western Sydney is a significant growth area for development and will see a huge population lift in the next decade. It’s up to the independent panels to assess whether developments are suited to the regions. It will allow for a non-partisan review of the merits of a proposal, separate from the local councils.”

Professor Lochhead said while planners and developers were well versed in the criteria of SEPP 65, gaps lay in the relationship of development to the urban context and neighbours.

“Adequate street setbacks, landscape and consideration of the public domain get less attention. There will often be buildings next door to a single-storey family house or fronting a busy road with no buffer,” she said.

She said current state policy included a requirement to pay respect to neighbours and the streetscape, though controls were often too general.

“Too often planning controls allow a proposal through and then there’s a tussle between policy and advice. You need designers providing reviews, but you still need good policy and controls. That’s where the gap is. Design guidelines need to support policy.

She said it was also important that high-density developments were close to and included amenities and services.

“We’re getting too many poor-quality developments. This needs to change.”

Professor Lochhead said she was also passionate about affordable housing.

“Affordable housing is something I feel very strongly about. Despite some inroads, there is real resistance by the government to tackle it. We need a suite of mechanisms that help people get better access to the market, such as mandating a certain percentage of affordable housing in every local government area, tighter tenancy laws, fiscal incentives and working with community housing providers.”

Other recently announced chairs include Carl Scully for the Sydney Eastern City Planning Panel, Justin Doyle for the Sydney Western City Planning Panel, and Peter Debnam for the Sydney North Planning Panel.

A chair for the Sydney Central City Planning Panel is yet to be announced.

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