Council overruled by Planning Panel

The Southern Planning Panel (formerly known as the Southern Joint Regional Planning Panel) has ruled that the planning proposal to rezone a strip of land west of the Highway, between the High School and Weir St (see right), should proceed through the Department of Planning, Industry & Environment’s Gateway process.

If approved, it would create a new suburb, twice the size of Kiama Heights.

The land is included in the Kiama Urban Strategy, as a last resort ‘if insuffiencent dwelling numbers are available’.

The Panel’s determination was made after the developer, White Constructions, appealed Council’s 7:1 rejection of the proposal, ‘at this time’, at its March meeting.

As happened with Jamberoo’s Golden Valley Way development, Council has accepted the role of being the Planning Proposal Authority (PPA).

The PPA is responsible for liaising with the developer and consulting with public authorities and the community over the proposal before it is sent to the Department of Planning for a Gateway determination.

The vote on whether to accept this role was split 5:4, with councillors divided on the merits of Council conducting the process.

“By keeping the process in house the councillors will have some influence over the recommendations that go to the Department for determination,” says Mayor Mark Honey.

In arguing against taking up the role as PPA, Councillor Reilly said, “To aid and abet in this process would offer no opportunity for Council to follow up its opposition to the planning proposal.

“We are advised that we must grow because we must grow. Growth for growth’s sake is the ideology of a cancer cell.”

Councillors are particularly concerned about the impact of traffic travelling through the Addos intersection and past the High School. Significant wastewater upgrades will also be necessary.

Peter O’Neill says the Central Precinctis disappointed by the Panel’s decision.

“We and the Council are convinced we could meet the housing targets without it.”

The owners are seeking to change the largely rural landscape (RU2) zoning of the 40ha (99 acres) site to low density residential (R2).

After meeting with Council staff and the developer, as well as consulting with the Department of Planning, Industry & Environment, the Panel concluded that the proposal met the necessary Strategic Merit Test and the Site Specific Merit Tests to enable it to proceed.

In its decision, the Panel said it was, “not convinced that other initiatives being pursued by Council would meet projected housing needs identified in the Illawarra Shoalhaven Regional Strategy, particularly given existing projections rely heavily on progressing development of the West Elambra site, which has not been rezoned to date.

“The Panel is therefore not convinced that ‘sufficient dwellings will be available’ consistent with the Kiama Urban Strategy caveat on progressing development of this site.”

The Bombo Quarry site, which is seen by many as being able to provide the housing required by the State Government in the long term, is not yet in the Regional Strategy as its mix of use has not yet been decided upon.

In explaining councillors’ reasons for originally rejecting the proposal in a letter to the Department Council’s Director of Environment Services said, “Kiama housing completions have tracked above the annual average projected under the Regional Plan over the last two years and has done so without an over-reliance on greenfield housing supply.

“Within this context, it is considered that the existing greenfield dwelling opportunities within Kiama are sufficient for the short term.”

She went on to outline concerns about the impact on existing road and wastewater networks, and point out that Council is the process of developing its 20 year vision for Kiama in its Local Strategic Planning Statement.

It should be noted, however, that Council’s planners did originally recommend to councillors that they support the proposal.

In its decision, the Panel did not endorse the current subdivision layout or lot yield, which results in a total of 455 lots, instead calling for additional work to be done on the Proposal before it is submitted.

This includes additional analysis of the environmental and heritage constraints of the site (Kendalls cemetary and the dry stone walls), urban design changes and changes to the layout to mitigate Highway noise impact.

The Planning Proposal is to be updated prior to being submitted for a Gateway determination.

The extent of community consultation will be outlined in the Gateway process for the proposal.

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