15 April 2019

A proposed western Sydney seniors housing complex - which had the potential to be one of the largest projects of its type in Australia - has been rejected by NSW planning authorities.

In early April, the Sydney Central City Planning Panel rejected the proposal by the Blacktown Workers’ Sports Club. The decision appears to be part of an increasingly stricter planning regime for seniors housing projects in NSW.

Consultants for the club were seeking initial planning approval for a project comprising 800 self-contained seniors dwellings and 160 residential aged care beds in buildings up to 14 storeys across a 5.1 hectare site.

The Arndell Park site currently contains sporting fields, which are being moved to an adjacent new sporting complex.

The club was seeking an approval known as a site compatibility certificate (SCC), which allows the proposal to move past the rezoning stage and straight to the development assessment stage. SCCs are unique to NSW and are used to fast-track the approval of what is considered to be socially-useful housing and infrastructure.

The Department of Planning and Environment advised the panel the proposal should be broadly supported as it would meet a growing need for seniors housing in the area.

“The proposed development will provide council with housing diversity and care facilities for seniors. This is a positive social outcome,” the Department’s assessment report said.

Aerial view of the proposed seniors housing and aged care development
alongside the Blacktown Workers' Sports Club


The Department also argued that, given the site was in an industrial area, close scrutiny would need to be given to building boundary setbacks and landscaping as part of the development assessment process before construction could begin.

However, the independent members of the Central City Planning Panel didn’t agree, in part because they found the building heights and overall dwelling yield were “not compatible with the existing or future desired character of the area”.

The NSW Government has, in recent months, been ensuring seniors housing proposals undergo more rigorous scrutiny after complaints from existing residents, particularly in Sydney’s north and north-west.

In October last year, the NSW Government made independent planning panels the final decision-maker on SCCs, instead of the Department as had been the case previously.

As part of the same suite of changes, the former Minister for Planning Anthony Roberts required the lodgement of a cumulative impact assessment for new seniors housing proposals, if these proposals were located within 1km of existing seniors housing.

Separately, in February this year, Mr Roberts put in place a moratorium until July 2020 on new seniors housing proposals in heritage conservation areas, following concerns raised by some North Shore residents.