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Deferred Lands Strategic Bushfire Risk Assessment

Update - November 2023

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.

Thank you for your continued interest and we will keep you updated of our progress.

Project updates

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 31 submissions relating to the Deferred Lands Strategic Bushfire Risk Assessment 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 is used to control development of land in a Local Government Area and 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.

One of those studies is the Deferred Lands Strategic Bushfire Risk Assessment (The Assessment).

The Assessment reviews bushfire hazard and risk in the deferred lands (Oxford Falls Valley and Belrose North) using “fireline intensity” mapping and identifies four (4) planning options to address these risks in Council’s new LEP and DCP. The preferred option recommends the use of land use zones to limit sensitive land uses in areas of higher risk and to apply other LEP and DCP measures to other permitted development, for example larger minimum lot sizes.

These recommendations have been incorporated into the Conservation Zones Review, by adopting high fireline intensity as a criterion for inclusion of land in the C3 Environmental Conservation zone.

Other LEP and DCP measures, such a minimum lot sizes, will be incorporated in the draft LEP and DCP to be publicly exhibited in 2024.

Snapshot of the assessment

The Deferred Lands Strategic Bush Fire Risk Assessment (The Assessment) is a study of the risks associated with bushfire in the “deferred lands” i.e., parts of Belrose, Oxford Falls and Cromer which are subject to planning controls under the Warringah Local Environmental Plan (WLEP) 2000.

Consultants Meridian Urban and Ten Rivers adopted best practice techniques to identify bush fire hazard and risk in the deferred lands. The assessment identifies areas with high potential “fireline” intensity based on mapping to determine the spatial/geographical spread and intensity of fire.

Bush fire hazard and risk must be considered when undertaking strategic land use planning activities, such as when preparing a new Local Environmental Plan (LEP). This is required by the statutory guideline Planning for Bush Fire Protection (PBP) 2019, prepared by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS).

Approximately 96% of the deferred lands area is within 100 metres of potential bush fire hazard. Approximately 796 residents, 495 allotments and 436 dwellings are in the existing risk exposure area in the deferred lands.

The deferred lands area is subject to an older-style Local Environmental Plan based on locality statements rather than zoning. Council needs to consider new planning rules across the Northern Beaches in the new LEP and DCP.

The assessment of bush fire risk for the deferred lands will help inform Council’s approach to land use zoning and other planning controls in the deferred lands area. This approach is similar to bush fire risk studies undertaken in other areas, such as for the proposed Ingleside Land Release area.

This assessment identifies land uses which are and are not appropriate in locations with a higher level of exposure to potential bushfire risk.

Four potential planning options were considered. The preferred Planning Option 3 combines a land use approach for the highest hazard areas to limit potential land use permissibility and avoid heightened future bush fire risk, with statutory control measures established under PBP 2019 for potentially moderate hazard areas, and additional measures for bush fire risk reduction. Planning Option 3 seeks to avoid bushfire sensitive development ie. seniors living, schools and childcare, on land with the highest risk to life and property. In moderate hazard areas. Planning Option 3 would require more detailed assessments of hazard and risk and proposed treatments when submitting a development application.

Other recommendations of the assessment include:

  • A clear understanding of the environmental and biodiversity values of the Deferred Lands should be mapped, such that LEP and DCP controls can be considered which limit the damage, loss or fragmentation of environmental assets.
  • The higher fireline intensity areas of the deferred lands should ideally be considered as part of the application of LEP and DCP controls, including zoning, to avoid high risk to life and property.
  • Existing Special Fire Protection Purposes (SFPPs) such as seniors living, schools and childcare facilities should be encouraged to prepare, implement, and maintain bush fire management plans. Additional mitigation (i.e., clearing of vegetation) is subject to further assessment. This may be further considered as part of the preparation of the new Northern Beaches Bush Fire Risk Management Plan.
  • the higher fireline intensity areas of the deferred lands i.e., which is exposed to potential fireline intensities of 30,000 kW/m or higher (including a 70-metre flame contact and radiant heat risk exposure buffer) is included in the Metropolitan Rural Area (MRA). The MRA encompasses those parts of Sydney identified in the Greater Sydney Region Plan and the North District Plan which should be maintained for their rural character and not be subject to urban development.
  • Any lands where future development may be contemplated could be the subject of preliminary structure planning activity which places bush fire responsive urban design at the forefront of the design intent, including the contemplation of strategic asset protection zones, avoiding ad-hoc site-specific approaches.
  • Any planning proposals should include a strategic bush fire study in accordance with the requirements of PBP 2019 and should ideally consider the content of the risk assessment.
  • Consider the application of indicative ‘community egress’ parameters (Cova, 2005) which identifies the maximum preferred number of dwellings and corresponding minimum number of road exits or egress points to facilitate emergency evacuation in the event of bush fire for interface communities when assessing any new development within the Deferred Lands.
  • Does the recommended Planning Option 3 provide an appropriate approach to managing the bushfire hazard and risk for the deferred lands?
  • Does the proposed range of inappropriate land uses on land with the highest risk to life and property i.e. seniors living, schools and childcare, adequately consider and respond to the bush fire hazard and risk in the deferred lands?
  • Do the recommendations strike the right balance of ensuring that bush fire risk and hazard due diligence is carried out whilst avoiding overly onerous development application requirements?

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 'Deferred Lands Strategic Bushfire Risk Assessment', Northern Beaches Council, PO Box 82 Manly NSW 1655.