About this project

The Bellingen Shire is a thriving community well known for its historic character, diverse environment, people and culture. However, Bellingen is experiencing a severe shortage of affordable housing, which is part of the larger housing crisis impacting regional Australia.

The former residential units of the Bellorana Hostel site on 15 Watson Street, Bellingen are no longer fit for purpose.  Royal Freemasons’ Benevolent Institution (RFBI)’s plan is to replace it with affordable housing for people in need. Retaining diverse and inclusive housing options within the Bellingen Shire is an important project objective.

Project details
The new affordable housing development will be staged with 23 one-bedroom dwellings in Stage 1 and 12 one-bedroom units and six two-bedroom units in Stage 2. The project also involves:

  • demolition of the disused Bellorana Hostel
  • A design that addresses the Watson Street frontage with fenced private open space setback from the boundary at ground level, with balconies above overlooking the streetscape.
  • A basement car park, accessible from Watson St via a new ramped entry.
  • Formal landscaped grounds with nature play area, seating areas and trellis style structures.

GeoLINK engaged for approval stage of project
GeoLINK was engaged by the Royal Freemasons’ Benevolent Institution (RFBI) to prepare a Development Application (DA) and associated Statement of Environmental Effects (SEE) for each stage of the affordable housing project.

The DA and SEE satisfied the requirements of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act) and the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulations 2021 (EP&A Regulations) by:

  • identifying the project site and its context and describing the characteristics of the land
  • providing a detailed description of the project proposal
  • providing an assessment of the project as it related to the statutory planning framework
  • undertaking a comprehensive environmental assessment

Key Challenges of the Project
GeoLINK identified two key challenges for the approval of the project.

  1. Height of Buildings
    Under the Bellingen LEP the maximum building height limit for the development site is 10 metres from existing ground level. The proposed building height of the development is 11.01m, which exceeds the Bellingen LEP height standard of 10m. A variation to the provisions was sought in regard to the proposed building height.We identified the key exception requirements of the Bellingen LEP and addressed how the project would best respond to these requirements. Bellingen Shire Council (as consent authority) needed to be satisfied that the development would be in the public interest and not inconsistent with the objectives of the building height development standard and zoning objectives.
  1. Heritage
    Part of the project site falls within the Bellingen Conservation Area which includes Bellingen CBD and surrounds. As a result the development needed to consider its effect on the heritage significance of the Bellingen Conservation Area and the adjoining heritage items including the Catholic Church and Hall as well O’Sullivan Park which has Cultural planting and remnant forest. A Statement of Heritage Impact formed of the project proposal which concluded that the proposal is not considered to have a significant impact on the conservation values of the St Marys Church and School complex or the Bellingen Conservation Area.

Our ability to assist the client was multi-faceted, with our planning, landscape and civil teams all involved to reach a positive outcome. With all stages approved, construction of the project has now commenced.

GeoLINK provides our clients with an integrated mix of environmental, engineering, planning and design services. Find out more at https://geolink.net.au/


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