An extraordinary meeting of Tweed councillors on Tuesday has failed to stop a controversial beachfront mansion at Hastings Point, sparking a community outcry.
The project involves a block of flats being gutted and redeveloped into a three-storey mega-home.
At the centre of the furore is Cr Dot Holdom, who on Tuesday supported the proposal despite it defying the Hastings Point village plan restricting heights of buildings to two storeys, which she voted two years ago to support.
Cr Holdom, who was seen as the linchpin in the move, joined the pro-development bloc on the crucial vote without giving any reason for her change of mind.
Members of that faction (Crs Warren Polglase, Kevin Skinner and Phil Youngblutt) also failed to speak up and explain their reasons this week for pushing through what many see as an overdevelopment that breaches too many rules.
Locals now fear the approval will lead to an avalanche of similar bids to build big homes along the foreshore, forever changing Hasting Point’s village atmosphere.
The rescission motion, moved by Crs Joan van Lieshout and Katie Milne and supported by mayor Barry Longland, was the council’s last chance to reverse the decision. Over a year ago, all three councillors pushed through a new Hastings Point development control plan (DCP), designed to stop so-called ‘McMansions’ being built along the foreshore, with the support of Cr Holdom, but this week and last week, she voted with the pro-development bloc.
At stake is the future look of Hastings Point. Many of the old homes that line the beachfront may soon be rebuilt in the same mega-style.
Mayor Barry Longland urged his colleagues to ignore the threat of legal action. He predicted council would win a Land and Environment Court case if the owners took legal action, as the project breached height, length and setback regulations.
Cr Longland said that by allowing the reduced setback from the beach ‘we are effectively providing these people with a bit of Crown land in their front garden’.
‘If anyone is worried about being rolled in the Land and Environment Court, I’d say we have a pretty good case,’ he said.
Cr van Lieshout warned that the community expected more from Tweed Council.
‘This council will be remembered for setting the [DCP] rules and this council will be remembered for abandoning them,’ she said.
‘I won’t be persuaded by threat of legal action to abandon those rules,’ she said.
Planners based much of their decision to approve the project on what opponents called a ‘rogue’ house next door, which is even bigger and higher, and almost as close to the foreshore.
Its approval was granted decades ago in what locals say were ‘questionable’ circumstances, when many inappropriate developments were pushed through Tweed Council. It’s believed the home’s first floor is referred to on planning documents as a ‘boat shed’.
Ironically, it was that home which helped spark the community’s decade-long campaign for a DCP to ban similar structures from the village.
While Cr Skinner didn’t speak during the debate, he told ABC Radio yesterday that the Hasting Point DCP was ‘just a guide’.
‘I never supported the Hastings Point DCP and I still don’t support it,’ said Cr Skinner.
‘They have existing use rights. It’s not a demolition, it is a redevelopment of an existing building,’ he said.
Cr Skinner said property owners had originally been allowed to build three-storey homes along the beachfront.
‘I don’t think there would have been many property owners who would have liked to have seen their existing rights taken away. You will probably see more applications for similar types of things.’