Navigating the SEPP Senior DA Process


SEPP Senior developments are an increasingly attractive development opportunity. If you have the right block – or blocks – of land in the right location, you could have a solid investment on your hands.

Part of the reason why boutique senior developments are so popular is because the standard residential zoning controls don’t strictly apply. This means that in an R2 zone you can still build a multi residential development under the State Environment Planning Policy (NSW).

But you still need to go through the council DA process… and this isn’t always straightforward.

As the Sydney SEPP Senior specialists, we are here to help you navigate the DA process to get the best outcome for your development.

PC - IrisStBeaconHill New

Putting the design into the street context


One of the biggest challenges to address in the design of a SEPP Senior development is how well the design blends in with the surrounding homes in the street. If you don’t address this in the design concept, it will become a hurdle in the DA process.

Playoust Churcher Director Luke Playoust has been designing boutique senior developments for more than a decade.

A significant challenge in the process of designing a SEPP Senior development is putting the design into the street context,” he explains. “The patterning is subjective, rather than numerical based measures like landscaping and height limits.

Council focuses on ensuring the design blends in with the surroundings. In the case of a development over two blocks, the street facade and the massing need to look like two houses rather than one big block of units. Essentially, the bulk of the building still needs to look domestic.”

The floor space ratio (FSR) under the SEPP allows you to build more than you could for a house, so the massing is bigger. On top of that, you may then have a basement carpark, which adds to the bulk.

The challenge is that this is a discretionary measure rather than prescriptive. Your architect needs to have an awareness of, and sensitivity to, council preferences.

PC - Rose Ave Wheeler Heights Unit

Balancing design with functional requirements


SEPP Senior products are a downsizer product. People are looking for spacious dwellings with either courtyard gardens or balconies and easy access from the street and from the carpark.

There is balance that we must strike as architects to design for the wants and needs of the market… while also meeting the functional requirements of the development that will be considered in the DA approval process.

SEPP designs need to be adaptable for disability access and use, which makes them slightly different to normal unit blocks or townhouse complexes,” explains Luke.

“At every stage, we are balancing the aesthetics and design elements with the functional requirements to meet the policy controls. We don’t just create a beautiful design and hope we can get it past council. We follow a proven strategic method from concept through to completion.”

PC - Soldiers Ave Frestwater

Cutting issues off at the pass


At Playoust Churcher, we don’t take any chances. In the majority of cases, we will arrange a pre-DA meeting with council to flush out any basic issues with the concept and design to minimise our redrawing.

We work with the council planners to get the context right,” says Luke. “You can meet all the numerical controls, but if council isn’t on board with the aesthetics of the development, then you can still run into trouble.

It all starts with a thorough site analysis. We need to bear in mind the neighbouring housing and try to minimise the impact of the proposed development.”

It’s not a simple case of ticking boxes and sailing on to DA approval. Within council there are a number of departments that need to be satisfied with the development. Council considers the landscaping, engineering, management of stormwater access, garbage waste and vehicular traffic as well as both strategic and site planning.

To complicate matters further, different councils have slightly different requirements and a different take on how the controls work. Those differences also extend to how a council considers the aesthetic view and the relationship within the streetscape.

We understand these idiosyncrasies between councils and factor that into our design. The pre-DA meeting is a fail-safe to keep our process running as smoothly as possible.”

Partner with the SEPP Senior specialists


If you would like to explore turning your block of land into a SEPP Senior development, you’ve come to the right place. Our experienced architects can work with you to assess the feasibility of your project. From there we’ll step you through the entire process from beginning to end.

Contact us to discuss your project with our team of SEPP Senior specialists.

Read more articles about senior housing design.

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