THE days of questionable developments in Bathurst's heritage conservation area could soon be over.
Bathurst Regional Council is looking at ways to refine its planning controls so they encourage good architecture and design within areas of heritage significance.
Director of Environmental Planning and Building Services, Neil Southorn, said some controversial development applications prompted council to consider changes.
"We've had a couple of DAs before council where some of the councillors haven't been happy with the proposals that were put forward," he said, adding that they still met planning criteria.
"There's also been discussions between some of the councillors about what to do with the landmark sites in the town centre."
Amending the planning controls is a logical step, but council has to do so with care.
"People's appetite for investment is influenced by many factors, including our own business model and the availability of finance, all those business factors, but so too do council's planning controls have a part to play," Mr Southorn said.
"If our planning controls are too onerous or unreasonable, then that may be a disincentive to investment. We can't ignore that; we don't want the town centre to stagnate.
"My own view is the way to balance those factors is to encourage good design.
"It doesn't have to cost more, but certainly good architecture and good design can go a long way to providing buildings that have some sort of wow factor and complement the heritage streetscapes."
As council reviews the planning controls in its development control plan (DCP), it will consider factors such as height limits, setbacks and articulation, bulk and scale, and the kinds of materials used.
Mr Southorn said that the limitations of the existing controls have allowed "mediocre design" to progress through the planning system, something that the review will aim to prevent from happening in the future.
"The fundamentals are in place. It's revisiting those to see whether or not there's some finessing, some adjustments that can be made to encourage better design," he said.
Council is already taking steps to do this by working more closely with applicants.
Within the last six months, council introduced pre-lodgement meetings and it is currently trialling an architecture advisory service, which runs in parallel with its long-standing heritage advisory service.
"There is overlap, some common features, but one is focused on heritage buildings, and giving advice to owners about those, and heritage streetscapes," Mr Southorn said.
"The other, the focus is complementary, but is on design attributes of infill buildings. It's another source of advice, expert fresh eyes on the architectural merit."
In the past, council has been criticised for how it notifies nearby property owners of pending DAs, and it is something Mr Southorn said council is also looking to improve.
"We are recommending that that be amended to include a greater level of notification under certain circumstances," Mr Southorn said.