OUR SAY: Development application flies in face of heritage values

ONE has to question the point of planning guidelines when they cannot be enforced.

On Tuesday night, councillors approved a development application for a second-storey extension for a unit in Moulder Street, the rearmost house of three.

This means instead of a single-dwelling block, where a two-storey house would be toward the road with a backyard separating it from its neighbours, it will be much closer, less than a metre in fact.

However, Orange City Council staff made the assessment while the development did not meet the bulk and scale requirements, mostly due to the eaves of the extension, they found it met the tests set by the NSW Land and Environment Court.

Staff also found the development control plan, which governs bulk and scale, the infill development policy, which controls development character in the heritage conservation area, and the legally-enforceable Local Environmental Plan did not require land to be “viewed in isolation” within the heritage area.

If this is the case, the question has to be asked whether the infill policy will protect the city’s heritage much at all. 

The infill policy requires new development to keep bulk and scale, setbacks and even window size consistent with surrounding heritage items.

Yet in this case, while the first floor addition will be consistent in design because it will be recessed into the existing roof with low ceiling height, recessive colour scheme and appropriate window positioning, the bulk of the building is clearly not consistent.

The Byng Street hotel development also faced bulk and scale problems and surrounding residents who had adhered to heritage requirements with their own properties questioned why the applicant should not.

The Moulder Street application was a decision councillors did not find easy because although they wanted to defend heritage values, they could not – when mayor John Davis considered his casting vote, he admitted he had hoped it would not come down to him.

The discussion revealed a thin line is being trodden between allowing landholders to improve their properties and protecting a valuable feature of Orange, which tourists constantly comment on.

If more two-storey proposals are received after this, this line will become more important than ever.