Goulburn faces challenges over housing strategy | Editorial, Monday, May 14, 2018

A further 500 lots are in the pipeline for Marys Mount.
A further 500 lots are in the pipeline for Marys Mount.

Goulburn Mulwaree must take greater control of its housing development as growth camps at our doorstep and social demands change.

That’s the aim of the current council housing strategy, on which community and industry feedback is being sought. 

Not surprisingly, many are predicting the extra 5700 people forecast for the council area over the next 20 years is conservative.

In that context we must ask, what kind of city and town do we want for Goulburn and Marulan? Council workshops concluded that most people wanted to retain the uniqueness of a rural lifestyle with ample public recreation space, environmental qualities, tree-lined streets, heritage and ease of access to the CBD.

The challenge is to convert all of these wants into solid, reliable planning laws. Recent history has shown this has largely failed at Marys Mount. The council opened the door to “cheek by jowl” housing in 2009 when it allowed AV Jennings to subdivide into 336 and 478 square metre lots.

Undoubtedly, there is demand for these but it’s resulted in a suburb devoid of character, with back fences to the road and not nearly enough landscaping. It is not uniquely Goulburn. In truth it could a suburb anywhere else. 

Council planning laws have not dictated its development strongly enough and developers have largely had their way.

While it’s going gangbusters, Marys Mount should not be accommodating the bulk of Goulburn’s housing demand. There’s a great need for diversity, also catering for those seeking a rural lifestyle. Real estate agents argue there’s strong demand for two and five hectare lots around the edge of town. The council has been slow to open up more land for these without a backing housing strategy. That’s fair enough but we hazard a guess the final document will tell them what many already know.

Yet it’s no simple task. Housing on the edges also requires sewerage connection, given our location in the Sydney Water Catchment. That costs money and developers must be willing to fund it.

Conversely, in Goulburn we are seeing an increasing trend toward infill and shop-top housing that is close to the CBD. 

Our housing over the next 20 years has many challenges but is an exciting conversation. It’s important to have a say. The strategy is on public exhibition until May 25.