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Gowings’ show how a height limit is no limit at all

Gowings’ proposal for a hotel in Coffs Harbour shows how a height limit is no limit at all

Gowings proposal to build a $20 million 80 room hotel in Coffs Harbour has some questioning how something that large can be approved at almost double the permitted height limit.  The proposal provides a useful insight for developers as to how height limits and floor space ratios can be exceeded where the objectives of the relevant Local Environment Plan are otherwise met.  Taking a firm approach on these issues, supported by legal advice, is the key to unlocking the full potential for a site.

How can it be improved

Coffs Harbour City Council is opposed to the development on the grounds that it exceeds the height limit for the area set out in the Council’s Local Environment Plan. On first look, it seems the proposal is well in breach – the limit us 17 metres but Gowings proposal is almost 49 metres tall. How can this be approved? The secret lies in the terms of the Local Environment Plan which permits exceptions to development standards such as height and floor space ratio. Under the terms of most Local Environment Plans, limits to development such as heights and floor space ratio can be exceeded if, amongst other things, it otherwise meets the objectives of the zone.

The way it works

A standard clause in every Local Environment Plan provides that an exception to a development standard such as height or floor space ration is permitted provided that:

  1. compliance with the development standard is unreasonable or unnecessary in the circumstances; and
  2. there are sufficient environment and planning grounds to justify the exceedance.

There is no numerical limit on the extent of the exceedance if it can be otherwise justified on the grounds above.

What you need to know

The difficulty is persuading Council to accept the argument – it is here that it can be important to have legal and planning expertise on your side. It may be ab efficiently run  appeal to the Land and Environment Court is the best way forward where Council are obstructive and unreasonable.

Contact Ross Fox , Senior Associate and leader of the Environment and Planning team  on 6650 7038 to discuss how to unlock the potential of your site.




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