Environmental zoning, real estate

Something homebuyers often come across when looking at Illawarra properties on the market, particularly in the northern suburbs, is environmental zoning.

Houses built on lush ground up along the back of the escarpment or on the edge of the sea can sometimes be classed as E2, E3 or E4. Though what that means can be confusing.

Wollongong City Council’s manager of development assessment and certification Mark Riordan said if something was classed E2 it’s not possible to put a “straight dwelling” on the land, though E3 and E4 could be fine with council approval.

“There’s the odd site that might not have a dwelling entitlement on it. People have to be a little bit careful if they’re buying a vacant block of land,” Mr Riordan said.

“Most of the E3 land is able to accommodate a dwelling, it’s just when people are wanting to get into subdividing it or it’s never had a dwelling entitlement [it can cause problems].”

If a block already has a house on it or the owner wants to upgrade or knockdown and rebuild then it is possible to have your dream home.

If land has environmental zoning, generally in the Illawarra it means there could be endangered species around, it could be in a landslide or bush fire prone area, and/or it could be subject to coastal erosion.

Depending on the environmental sensitivity of the land, there will be restrictions around what you can alter in the future.

Mr Riordan said questions that homeowners would need to think about are where can they build on the land, how close are they to the bush, will they need to clear vegetation or accommodate threatened species and will they need to use specific building materials that can withstand natural disaster.

“They're tricky, but not prohibitively restrictive,” he said.

“You have to be a little bit aware going into the environmental zones. They’re special because they’re often in a very nice bushy area and natural surrounds… but living in there requires understanding the constraints and managing and planning for that.”

While you can’t build a Disneyland Mr Riordan said it is possible to have a stunning home.

“They are a very attractive option for a lot of people. They offer a lot of scope for building … you’re not as restricted as some people might think,” Mr Riordan said.

Principal of Helensburgh’s Realize Architecture Terry Savill has designed several homes to meet environmental zoning standards.

One of his work’s is a five-bedroom, three-bathroom home in Coalcliff that is now on the market.

It had constraints regarding how far it could be from the ocean, the floor space ratio and how far it could be between neighbouring houses.

Mr Savill said it is more difficult to design around regulations but it’s not impossible.

“It can change the design significantly … but I think there are some sensational places being built in those zones, you just have to pay more attention to the design aspect and really come to grips with the site and what the client’s after.”

Other examples of environmentally zoned properties, and are also on the market, include 18 Cokeworks Road in Coledale and 30 Northern Close in Austinmer.

For further details read the NSW legislation HERE