Big new Sydney apartment developments could be threatened by a federal government push to restrict building near airports.
The federal Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese, has written to state governments advising them of proposed guidelines to limit residential developments across Australia in areas that could be affected by aircraft noise.
But developers say it is ridiculous to impose restrictions on building housing developments when people are already used to constraints due to aircraft noise.
Central to the plan is an additional way of measuring aircraft noise, called N70, which refers to a noise level of 70 decibels (dB) outside a dwelling and 60 dBs inside. It is designed to measure noise frequency and maximum noise levels to guide planners on where to allow development.
This extra measure will be imposed on top of the existing way of measuring noise, called the Aircraft Noise Exposure Forecast (ANEF), where aircraft operators estimate average noise levels from aircraft over a year.
Mr Albanese said the guidelines had come out of the aviation white paper which flagged the need for a clear national framework for land use planning for aviation operators and the public.
''Planning major new greenfield residential developments directly under flight paths doesn't make sense,'' he said.
However, adding an additional noise measure is a move developers believe could dramatically restrict the amount of new residential development close to Sydney flight paths and even devalue people's properties.
''If these new standards are incorporated massive areas of existing housing would be affected,'' said Chris Johnson, chief executive of the developer lobby group the Urban Taskforce.
''Why invest in a new measure when it tells a whole lot of people they are worse off?''
While the draft guidelines are largely designed for new airports and housing developments in greenfields areas, they envisage having some impact on new developments around existing airports.
''Where there is no major existing or approved development, there is an opportunity to plan ahead to minimise noise disturbance for future uses, especially to minimise residential development,'' the guidelines say.
''This guideline does not prevent further development of existing areas as for urban consolidation and infill and redevelopment of brownfield areas but rather informs the appropriate nature of that development.''
How the guidelines would ''inform'' development is not clear. The guidelines say developments in areas affected by aircraft noise would need to be considered case by case and use construction techniques to minimise the impact of noise.
The guidelines recommend refusing zoning for noise-sensitive developments where it is expected there will be more than 20 daily events of more than 70 dB, 50 or more daily events of 65 dB, 100 or more daily events greater than 60dB or six or more events greater than 60dB between 11pm and 6am.
But Mr Johnson said it was often very difficult to separate greenfields developments from developments in existing urban areas, and the guidelines would have an unknown impact on developments like Green Square, which is just three kilometres from Sydney Airport.
''Acoustic engineers have played me the sound you can hear from 60dB and you can hardly hear it,'' Mr Johnson said.
Source: National Times