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Biodiversity Assessment of Deferred Lands

Update - June 2024

Council has now finalised the Biodiversity Assessment of Deferred Lands. The study forms a critical component of the evidence base for the Local Environment Plan (LEP) and Development Control Plan (DCP).

Please keep up to date via the LEP/DCP project page.

Project updates

Since the completion of the public exhibition Council has been consulting the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (the Department) on the proposals as part of a special “pilot project”.

In late November 2023, Council received final advice from the Department about the project. Amongst other things, that advice directed Council to:

  • retain existing conservation zoning throughout the Local Government Area, and
  • remove natural hazard criteria (e.g. bushfire prone or flood prone land) and “Medium Environmental Value” criteria from the zoning methodology

Council is currently amending its Conservation Zones criteria and re-mapping the outcomes for further consideration.

Upon completion of this work and other work associated with Council’s new Local Environmental Plan (LEP), a report will be presented to Council (mid-2024) to endorse a Planning Proposal for submission to the Department for a ‘Gateway Determination’. The Planning Proposal and updated draft land use zoning maps will be placed on statutory public exhibition following endorsement by Council and the issue of a Gateway Determination by the Department.

This calendar year (2023), we have been finalising a draft of the new Northern Beaches Local Environmental Plan (LEP) and Development Control Plan (DCP) to provide our community with a clearer, simpler, and fairer set of planning rules.

This has included a series of meetings with the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) on the Conservation Zones Review. We are currently waiting on written advice from DPE to finalise the Review methodology and other key aspects of the draft LEP.

In the interim, we commenced a program of engagement with the Councillors to discuss proposed LEP content based on the community feedback we have already received.

In 2024, we aim to report to Council a draft LEP for submission to DPE for approval, also referred to as ‘Gateway Determination’.

Once we receive the Gateway Determination, we will prepare the LEP for public exhibition together with a draft DCP. The exact timing of reports to Council and public exhibition relies upon the receipt of final written advice from DPE, the timing of the Gateway Determination from DPE, and the interrelationship of these key decisions with the timing of Local Government Elections (September 2024).

You can view the project timeline at the end of our ‘Planning our Sustainable Future’ webpage.

Pilot Project with Department of Planning and Environment (DPE)

We have completed a series of meetings with the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) as part of a ‘Pilot Project’ and now we are awaiting their formal advice which we are expecting in early September.

This advice may result in changes to the Conservation Zones Review methodology depending on DPE’s final views on each of the environment and hazard criteria proposed for use in the methodology (see draft methodology).

Once we receive this advice, we will prepare updated mapping of relevant criteria and review the outcomes against previous community submissions to determine the impacts. We anticipate that this process will in many cases resolve the concerns raised in these submissions.

Site Investigations

As resolved at Council’s meeting 23 August 2022, we will undertake an independent review, including a site inspection, where there remains a dispute about rezoning of land under the Review. These independent reviews cannot commence until we receive the DPE advice, re-runs the maps and reviews the impacts on land that may be the subject of a dispute.

Impact on the LEP/DCP Process

The Conservation Zones Pilot Project has resulted in delays to the LEP/DCP Program. Consequently, the updated methodology for the Conservation Zones Review is likely to finalised by late 2023 and the draft LEP/DCP will now go to Council in 2024, with the statutory public exhibition expected in late 2024/early 2025.

Pilot Project with Department of Planning and Environment (DPE)

Earlier in March, Council met with the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) to discuss a Pilot Project to further investigate the methodology and mapping used in our Conservation Zones Review and to explore potential changes to address community and stakeholder feedback.

This is important because the Department will have the final say about any proposed zoning changes resulting from the Review.

Site visit requests and mapping Investigations

We have also undertaken a review of all the submissions to the public exhibition. This has shown:

  • Over three hundred submissions raised concerns with the accuracy of mapping, including approximately fifty which requested a site visit.
  • Approximately forty submissions requested a site visit based on their concerns about the methodology.

We are conducting a desktop/ online assessment of those submissions which raised issues with mapping accuracy. This work will continue over the next few months concurrently with the Department of Planning and Environment Pilot Program.

Once we reach agreement with the Department of Planning and Environment on a revised methodology, site inspections will be arranged for landowners whose submissions on mapping have not been resolved.

Due to the timing of the Pilot Project with the Department, site visits may not now commence until July/August. We will contact those who requested a site visit to notify them of the delay.

Whilst Council is considering changes to its methodology to address submissions received, it does not propose to conduct site visits where a submission requests one based on methodology, as specific site conditions will not impact methodology.

We are aiming to complete all relevant work by early September.

The outcomes from the Review will help us develop a draft Northern Beaches Local Environmental Plan and Development Control Plan, which will be presented to Council and exhibited for community feedback in 2024.

We will continue to keep you updated.

We anticipate many of the issues raised can be resolved by potential changes to the draft methodology which Council is currently investigating.

Where areas of dispute remain about the accuracy of Council mapping of criteria used in the review, we will engage relevant consultants and contact those landowners who have requested a site inspection.

We are expecting to commence site visits from May 2023.

We are also meeting with the Department of Planning and Environment to discuss the Review, the submissions received, and possible changes. This is important because the Department will have the final say about any proposed zoning changes resulting from the Review.

The outcomes from the Review will help us develop a draft Northern Beaches Local Environmental Plan and Development Control Plan, which will be presented to Council and exhibited for community feedback in 2024.

We will continue to keep you updated.

Consultation outcomes

We have reviewed all 935 submissions received in response to the public exhibition of the Conservation Zones Review and Technical Studies. We received 69 submissions relating to the Biodiversity Assessment of Deferred Lands Technical Study.

The main aim of this exhibition was to seek feedback on a draft methodology for the use of Conservation Zones across the Northern Beaches.

You can read the Consultation Report below which summarises the key issues and Council’s response to this feedback. You can also view the redacted submissions received through the public exhibition. The snapshot is also a great overview of the issues raised.

If you have any questions about this study or the consultation outcomes, please call the Strategic and Place Planning Team on 1300 434 434.

Engagement history

We are creating one new planning framework that will guide and manage future development in the Northern Beaches. This is a requirement of the NSW Government.

Our planning framework is made up of a Local Environmental Plan (LEP) which designates land use zones and is used to control development of land in a Local Government Area. The framework also includes a Development Control Plan (DCP) which provides detailed local planning and design guidelines to support the planning controls in the LEP. A new LEP and DCP for the Northern Beaches will provide a clearer, simpler and fairer set of planning rules.

To establish these rules, we have carried out several technical studies to identify the issues and recommend controls for specific environmental characteristics. Outputs from the technical studies have also been used to inform the identification of draft Conservation Zones for inclusion in the future Northern Beaches LEP.

One of those studies is the Biodiversity Assessment of Deferred Lands. This technical study describes and maps biodiversity of the ‘deferred lands’. The deferred lands are the predominantly undeveloped area of land located each side of Wakehurst Parkway (north) and Forestway, bounded by the suburbs of Cromer, Narraweena, Beacon Hill, Oxford Falls, Frenchs Forest and Belrose.

The Biodiversity Assessment of the Deferred Lands includes a detailed review and on ground survey to help identify and map conservation values which will better inform a new LEP and DCP.

Snapshot of the assessment

Northern Beaches Council engaged Arcadis Australia Pacific Pty Ltd to assess the ecological value of the ‘deferred lands’, bounded by the suburbs of Cromer, Narraweena, Beacon Hill, Oxford Falls, Frenchs Forest, Belrose and Belrose North, which are subject to Warringah LEP 2000.

Stage 1 of the assessment focused on reviewing and summarising existing ecological information for the deferred lands area using a combination of desktop research and field assessment, and to identify knowledge gaps in the ecological value of the area.

Stage 2 of the assessment comprised field surveys designed to fill gaps in knowledge of ecological values present within the deferred area. Areas of very high, high, moderate, and low conservation significance were determined throughout the deferred lands area using five criteria. The conservation significance criteria are:

  • Threatened species habitat (extent and quality)
  • Threatened ecological communities (extent and quality)
  • Proximity to protected bushland
  • Wildlife corridors and connectivity
  • Riparian land/water sustainability.

Readers should also note that a separate LGA wide study, the ‘Biodiversity Planning Review includes the mapping of Core Habitats and Biodiversity (wildlife) Corridors covering the deferred lands.

Northern Beaches Council (NBC) is reviewing its planning instruments and developing a new, integrated Local Environment Plan (LEP) and Development Control Plan (DCP) to guide its long-term strategic land-use planning. Detailed information regarding areas of high ecological value or conservation significance within the deferred lands area is critical to prioritise areas of high biodiversity value for conservation during land use planning and to inform future zoning of the deferred lands. The LEP and DCP will include the definition of Conservation zones and new biodiversity planning controls to protect native vegetation, wildlife habitat and connectivity, and threatened entities (threatened species, threatened ecological communities and threatened populations).

The deferred lands area contains significant habitat for threatened flora and fauna and contains patches of national and state listed Threatened Ecological Communities (TECs), totalling over 30 hectares. It also provides a significant buffer to, and an extension of, suitable habitat from the protected Garigal National Park. In future planning for the area, these values must be retained to assist in protecting the biodiversity of the Northern Beaches LGA.

Most of the deferred lands has high (52%) or very high (15%) ecological/conservation value using the five ecological value criteria. Many of the areas of highest ecological value will likely be inaccessible for development, due to the steep and rugged nature of the area as well as bushfire risk. Other areas also contain high or very high ecological values, especially along creeks and in areas with vegetation mapped as TECs. Moderate ecological values (16%) consist primarily of buffers or edges around urbanised locations that generally show moderate levels of disturbance. More accessible areas and those adjacent to current cleared areas still have ecological value as fauna habitat or buffer zones and wildlife corridors. Areas mapped as low ecological value (17%) are generally already cleared, and mostly developed.

To determine the most appropriate zoning for environmental protection of parts of the deferred lands, the assessment shows that many areas of the deferred lands study area have the ecological values that would make them good candidates for a Conservation zone. The deferred lands are surrounded by National Parks (C1 zoned land), but parts of the deferred lands are contiguous with this area and likely to have similar values.

When reading the review, we want to know if you agree with the approach and criteria used in the assessment to identify and map threatened ecological communities, threatened flora and fauna species habitat, and the ecological/conservation values categories for the deferred lands?

Read more about the technical studies that informed the Conservation Zones Review

Our Conservation Zones Review has been informed by a series of technical studies that identify areas with high environmental value and significant environmental hazards.

You can find out more about each of the technical studies by clicking on the boxes below.

Have a question?

Send your query to:

Name Strategic and Place Planning
Phone 1300 434 434 (during business hours)
Email council@northernbeaches.nsw.gov.au
Website www.northernbeaches.nsw.gov.au
In writing

Marked 'Biodiversity Assessment of Deferred Lands', Northern Beaches Council, PO Box 82 Manly NSW 1655.