A long-held ambition by parents of the fast-growing Pottsville area for a high school to be built there appears to have been sidelined.
Tweed Shire Council this week gave the green light to a plan by major developer Metricon to turn a site at its Seabreeze estate, long earmarked for a potential high-school, into residential zone for around 160 dwellings.
Council will now prepare an amendment to the development control plan for Seabreeze to remove the school site and exhibit it for 30 days.
The move to change the land use of the greenfield, six-hectare site to residential followed the NSW Department of Education and Training advising council the site was not required for a high school for the foreseeable future due to insufficient demand.
The developer then sought the amendment, without identifying a designated school site, telling council that exhibiting it would give the education department a chance to ‘finally determine if they want a site, and if so a commitment to acquire the site promptly’.
Cr Warren Polglase backed the move, saying he could understand Metricon’s ‘reluctance’ to hang onto the site for a high school given the department didn’t think current population levels there warranted it.
Cr Polglase said he supported the amendment going on display for public comment for 30 days as it would give Pottsville residents ‘a voice’ so they could ask the state government to ‘reconsider a high school for Pottsville’.
‘We should ask the community what they want and not what the government wants us to do,’ he said.
Cr Kevin Skinner added that ‘voice is loud enough, maybe the education department will listen’.
But it may not either, according to Crs Dot Holdom and Katie Milne, who opposed the move and failed in their bid to defer it till next meeting to allow for a workshop between council and the education department on possible school sites for the area.
Cr Holdom said she had concerns the land-use shift from a high school to residential would reduce the potential for a high school to be built there in future.
‘It begs the question, where do we flag a public high school for the future?’ she said.
Cr Polglase then suggested an amendment to the staff recommendation for the plan to go on display so council could hold a public meeting in Pottsville during the exhibition period.
‘Who knows, they may identify other possible sites,’ Cr Polglase said.
Cr Milne said she was concerned about the ramifications of agreeing to remove the school site from Seabreeze and what sort of message it gave the community.
‘It would be more respectful to ask the community what they want first. We said we would support, lobby and advocate a high school for Pottsville.’
Cr Milne said it appeared the developers were simply saying ‘we just want to get rid of the site so we can build more houses’.
‘But we shouldn’t contemplate absolving this location for a high school with no guarantee for others in the future,’ she said.
In their report, council staff said the potential high-school site at Seabreeze had been identified since 2000 and long discussed among the community, council, developers and education providers.