Our experience demonstrates that, in Sydney Australia, little or no protection exists to prevent shading from adjacent building development. We found that urban development is fundamentally "pro-developer" and even building guidelines that mandate a minimum level of solar access are easily side stepped by council when evaluating a development application. For anyone considering building a house in the Sydney region that features passive solar design concepts, it is worth evaluating the risk that a neighbour may build a structure that blocks solar access. In our case Hornsby council approved our neighbours extension even though they clearly stated in their approval notice "The proposed 9.3m height of the addition does not comply with the prescriptive measures of the Height element". That is, it was too high and would therefore block our Solar access.
(I have since performed my own assessment, based on a trigonometric calculation, of the finished building and note a height of 10 meters which I suggest is a gross exceedance of the planning regulations. My understanding of the NSW planning legislation, is that the maximum building height allowable in these circumstances is 8.5 metres. (See Ref 26 “State Environmental Planning Policy [Exempt and Complying Development Codes] 2008 at paragraph 3:13 clause 1, and Ref 27 “Complying-Development-Customer-Guide-issued-APRIL-2011” at section 4.5). More significantly, this high point at 8.5 meters must be set back 8 meters from the rear boundary (See Ref 26 paragraph 3:17 clause 2a and Ref 23 section 4.6 clause 3:17). What a difference it would make to our solar access if these, what I understand to be mandatory legislated requirements, were imposed by council on this development application. We unambiguously articulated this point in our submission to council in response to the DA, clearly stating that the building appeared to be close to 10 meters high with sections of the extension 5 to 6 meters from our boundary. How is it that Hornsby Council can allegedly so blatantly disregard the NSW state planning legislation especially in light of our detailed submission in response to DA94/2010 noting the significant impacts that such a tall structure would have on our property.) The requirement that dwelling-houses adjacent to new building work shall receive 4 hours of sunshine to their private open space was, for some inexplicable reason, side stepped by council. In our submission to Hornsby council we clearly articulated the area of our garden that was our private open space which therefore should have been evaluated for solar access . Hornsby Council nominated an alternate area of our yard that was already in shadow through the winter months noting that the proposed development would not cast a shadow on this alternate area. The section of our garden that was designed to take advantage of the winter sun, our front garden, was now shaded. Why take such an approach?? One of the cornerstones of the planning regulations is the provision of an outdoor area for each dwelling house that captures the winter sun. Why in the case of a dwelling in Sydney (Southern hemisphere) would council even suggest that a garden area to the South would fit this objective especially when the owners who lived there for over 25 years gave a clear explanation that the garden area to the North was the principal private open space. Also the requirement that Windows to north-facing living rooms on adjoining development to receive 3 hours of sunlight on 22 June (the winter solstice) was glossed over. Council stated that Overshadowing already occurs to the north facing windows to the living areas of the adjoining property to the south, No. 22A Albion Street, as a result of a 1.7m wide awning adjoining the northern side of the dwelling-house. So what council were saying in their approval report was that the passive solar design features intended to block high elevation sun angles are in fact blocking high elevation sun angles. Based on this statement it is apparently OK to block the remaining solar access with a new tall building extension!!! In our submission to Hornsby council we included design details to explain how our passive solar design worked noting the geometry of the North facing varanda. (Southern hemisphere) This is an indication of the calibre of council staff responsible for local government planning decisions- help!!. Our neighbour was not interested in our predicament and more recent requests to trim trees that are blocking our remaining winter sun have been ignored.