Greens Ballina councillor Jeff Johnson has questioned the Liberal-National state government’s claim that it aims to stay out of local planning issues.
He told Echonetdaily the council had received a letter from the state government planning department ‘effectively telling us to put a planning proposal on exhibition before Christmas’.
The proposal in question is for Cumbalum Precinct B. It would be a new estate housing 8000 people at the top of Ross Lane, Lennox Head – almost equivalent in size to the existing Lennox Head township.
‘It seems unusual for them to be writing to council to speed up the process. A couple of councillors [said] pressure from the government was the reason they endorsed the planning proposal,’ he told Echonetdaily yesterday.
Ballina Council approved putting the proposal on exhibition at its November meeting and a rescission motion put by Cr Jeff Johnson at its Thursday meeting was defeated.
He said there was no objective reason to rush into the development given that existing approved residential developments could provide up to 20 years’ worth of population expansion in Ballina Shire.
‘I think we need to not proceed with it at this stage. There are already about 3000 residential-zoned blocks that are currently either on the market or being placed on the market.
Combined with infill development [such as increased granny flats and unit developments in town] he believes this should provide for a proposed population increase from 45,000 to 60,000 in Ballina over the next 20 years.
‘Some councillors said in their statements “if we don’t approve it, the state government’s going to take it over”.
‘That’s not the way we should be taking decisions about the future of our shire. There are many unresolved issues relating to this rezoning, which include some macadamia farms. There are flooding issues, highway noise issues, environmental concerns – and it’s a total greenfield site.’
Cr Jeff Johnson queried who would pick up the tab for all of the infrastructure costs, arguing the later any council requirements are imposed on would-be developers, the easier it is for them to wriggle out of them.
‘At this early stage of the process council has a bit of power. The longer you wait to do those things the more likely they are to get reduced or removed from approvals on appeal.’
Cumbalum Precinct B will be put on exhibition for comment early in the new year and will return to council with a report based on the submissions received.
Cr Jeff for one is hoping people will take the opportunity to have their say.
‘People have no idea a suburb bigger than Lennox is being planned up on the hill behind the existing town.’