Local Character Studies and Statements

Local Character is the talk of the town!

Over the past 2 years we’ve been helping Council’s across NSW with their character work. With the announcement of the Local Character Overlay by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, Local Character has again come front and centre in place making. It’s what makes our neighbourhoods unique and is the identity of the place. It encompasses the way it looks and functions. 

Just like our unique neighbourhoods, each Council is using the local character tools to suit their context and needs. Increasingly, planning is looking at character as a way to achieve a variety of improved outcomes, such as encouraging a harmonious scale for new development in our neighbourhoods, expanding tree canopy and landscaping, and reinforcing the role and function of certain land uses and centres.

Having hosted the Department’s Character Symposium in 2018, JOC Consulting has been at the forefront of preparing, engaging and assisting Council’s with their Local Character Statements, and implementing them in various planning documents. Check out below why Local Character is becoming an increasingly important aspect of the NSW Planning System, why engagement is essential for the local character process, and how we’ve helped others with their Local Character work!

Why is Local Character important for Council and Strategy?

Local Character is more than just a statement. Local Character has the power to shape the very fabric of a Council’s planning system and provide a basis for future long-term strategies. Through a variety of implementation methods, character can guide a variety of regional, district or local strategic planning documents, statutory plans and policies, urban renewal or development assessment.

 

Every step of the planning system presents an opportunity to incorporate the communities sentiment of Local Character. The preparation of local strategic planning statements is an opportunity for councils and their communities to identify and specify a 20-year vision for land uses in their LGA, and therefore embed local character and place as an integral component of the strategy.

JOC Consulting understand the complexity and opportunities for Council’s to implement Local Character within Council managed planning documents, and how local character can influence how and where development should occur. These include reviewing local environmental plans (LEPs) and development control plans (DCPs) to align with strategic plans allows councils to integrate local character into their planning documents, and see visible outcomes within their community. 

The importance of Community Engagement in Local Character?

Local Character must be steered and heavily informed by its local community. A shared understanding of local character and context by all residents, stakeholders and visitors is integral to achieve a positive social, economic, environmental impact on a local area, while minimising adverse impacts on future generations. 

 

As part of the community engagement, its is essential to understand how different actors within the community shape local character. Business owners, chambers of commerce and local progress groups may influence a traditional high street or local shops, which impacts the retail mix, street activity and provision of local experiences. Meanwhile soft infrastructure such as community groups, local congregations and not for profits can determine the social components of local character.

 

Helping the community express their views towards the different components of Local Character can be challenging. Often, communities will be able to identify that they like particular areas, but they may not be able to articulate exactly why. This may be true if what is valued is intangible or relates to the finer detail of urban form. Utilising the Local Character Wheel developed by the Department of Planning, JOC Consulting have had tremendous success in helping community convey Local Character.

We are experts at identifying Local Character through engagement and strategic planning

JOC is an expert in Local Character. Utilising a mix of best-practice place planning combined with innovative engagement to help unpack local character, we have helped a number of Council’s identify their Local Character.

  • Experienced at developing Character Statements in and outside of Sydney – JOC has completed character statement workshops for Newcastle Council, City Canterbury Bankstown and prepared numerous other character statements for planning and place making projects including Kibble Park Place Plan for CCC and Wingham Place Making Strategy for MidCoast Council.
  • Recognised leaders in community engagement, delivering tailored and adaptable approaches to reach diverse communities and encourage shared stewardship, our engagement capability have recently been recognised through Greater Sydney Commission’s (GSC) award for great community collaboration for the Northern Beaches Council’s Connected through Creativity, as well as GSC’s commendation award for Hornsby Shire Council’s engagement for their LSPS, that JOC planned, facilitated and reported on. This latter project was also commended by the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA).
  • Imbedded evaluation within Character statement rollout – As part of the Newcastle Council Local Character pilot study, JOC imbedded an evaluation component of the engagement, which included consolidated feedback from community on the process and recommendations to help inform future Character Statements within Newcastle Council.
  • Extensive experience in delivering adaptive online and interactive engagement. JOC’s facilitated over 50 virtual workshops since March 2020 using a range of tools and methods. For the City of Parramatta, we brainstormed actions for the Socially Sustainable Parramatta Framework using Zoom, Mentimeter, and Mural. For Penrith City Council’s Places of Penrith Implementation Plan internal workshop, we reviewed centres and unique attributes of place using Zoom and Google Documents.

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