Res­i­dents’ fears over pre­cious for­est

Monthly Chronicle - - Front Page - Jenny Bar­lass

In the lat­est twist to the long-run­ning dis­pute over the for­mer IBM site, 11 com­mu­nity groups rep­re­sent­ing thou­sands of an­gry res­i­dents have last week writ­ten to the Depart­ment of Plan­ning de­mand­ing it re­con­sider Hills Shire Coun­cil’s rec­om­men­da­tions for the site.

In­cluded in the de­mands is that 11 hectares of for­est un­der threat on the site be given the high­est level of pro­tec­tion of E2 Con­ser­va­tion zon­ing.

Plans for the 26 hectare heav­ily forested site in ques­tion at 55 Coonara Av­enue West Pennant Hills owned by prop­erty gi­ant Mir­vac, in­clude re­zon­ing it for medium and high den­sity hous­ing so 400 units and 200 town­houses can be built.

Cur­rently the site has seven con­nected build­ings leased for com­mer­cial use which Mir­vac says are no longer fit for pur­pose.

Res­i­dents have taken is­sue with the ap­pli­ca­tion to Hills Coun­cil not least be­cause they say the re­zon­ing pro­posal in­cludes 11 hectares of crit­i­cally en­dan­gered Tur­pen­tine and Blue Gum High For­est on land ad­join­ing the Cum­ber­land State For­est. They want to see the bush­land and the habi­tats of Pow­er­ful Owls res­i­dent there, pro­tected.

In De­cem­ber the Coun­cil re­quested that the Depart­ment of Plan­ning and En­vi­ron­ment re­vise the Gate­way Ap­pli­ca­tion to al­low the site to be re­zoned from B7 Business Park to R3 Medium Den­sity and R4 High den­sity res­i­den­tial. It also sug­gested to the Depart­ment that sec­tions of the site con­tain­ing the crit­i­cally en­dan­gered for­est be sub­di­vided into an ex­clu­sive res­i­den­tial en­clave of five acre lots. It is not clear how much of the site will be zoned for acreage sub­di­vi­sion at this stage.

“This is a move that has con­fused and out­raged the com­mu­nity,” said Jus­tine Smil­lie, spokesper­son for RIPA (Res­i­dents In­fra­struc­ture and Plan­ning Al­liance). In their open let­ter to the Premier, Greater Syd­ney Com­mis­sion Chair Lucy Turn­bull, Depart­ment of Plan­ning, lo­cal MPs and En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ters, res­i­dents groups are de­mand­ing the Depart­ment zone all rem­nant for­est E2 En­vi­ron­men­tal Con­ser­va­tion, which means it can­not ever be built upon and the pub­lic has the right to its ac­cess.

Crit­ics say the de­vel­op­ment, first pro­posed as over 1200 res­i­dences two years ago by Mir­vac, is not only en­vi­ron­men­tally de­struc­tive, it also places fur­ther strain on al­ready over­loaded in­fra­struc­ture and ameni­ties for the num­ber of planned dwellings.

“This is en­tirely in­con­sis­tent with the Depart­ment of Plan­ning’s ini­tial po­si­tion which was that the high value, pris­tine for­est should be pro­tected,” said Jus­tine Smil­lie.

She added that thou­sands of sub­mis­sions ob­ject­ing to the re­zon­ing pro­posal have been sent to Coun­cil and the Plan­ning Depart­ment.

“It beg­gars belief that Coun­cil does not recog­nise the sig­nif­i­cance of this unique site and con­tin­ues to ig­nore the com­mu­nity’s de­mand that the for­est be pro­tected and pre­served. Whose in­ter­ests are the Coun­cil rep­re­sent­ing?”

The DA is cur­rently un­der con­sid­er­a­tion by the Depart­ment of Plan­ning’s Gate­way as­sess­ment.

In a state­ment, Toby Long, Mir­vac’s Gen­eral Man­ager for Res­i­den­tial De­vel­op­ment NSW said that “pro­tect­ing the for­est is a top pri­or­ity for Mir­vac - there has never been a pro­posal that af­fects the rem­nant bush­land and we can cat­e­gor­i­cally rule out sub-di­vid­ing the for­est ar­eas. In fact we are seek­ing the high­est form of zon­ing – E2 for for­est ar­eas.”

On the po­ten­tial use of ex­ist­ing build­ings for ed­u­ca­tional pur­poses, he said that Mir­vac’s re­search showed ed­u­ca­tion fa­cil­i­ties were not a suit­able use of the build­ings.

He added that Coun­cil “has now twice en­dorsed the pro­posal for res­i­den­tial use and the Depart­ment of Plan­ning and En­vi­ron­ment has es­tab­lished strate­gic merit of the project through their ‘Gate­way De­ter­mi­na­tion’ process.

“Mir­vac will con­tinue to work closely with the lo­cal com­mu­nity, the Govern­ment and the Coun­cil and we are hope­ful the Plan­ning Pro­posal process will clar­ify the facts of our pro­posal.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.