Tweed Shire Council’s chief planner has defended the inclusion of a development proposal with a long history of controversy to be debated at the final meeting before next month’s election.
Staff have recommended conditional approval tomorrow for a new bid by the owners of Noble Lakeside Park in Kingscliff to expand the 254-dwelling estate, this time with 32 new homes, to be built over a manmade lake.
Residents have ridiculed the proposal to build ‘third-world fishing-village-style homes on stilts’ over the lake, which would remove their recreational open space and walking trail.
The park owner’s previous bid for 45 new homes on the northern edge of the lake was knocked back by the Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) late in 2010 on various grounds, including the impact on the amenity of the existing 400-plus residents.
Developer Keith Noble then took the issue to the Land and Environment Court last year but pulled the pin on the case on the first day of the hearing. The new proposal was then reduced in scale and cost to just under $10 million, bringing it back into council’s hands.
The manager of the park is Cr Warren Polglase, who has declared a pecuniary conflict of interest on the issue and not taken part in the debate or voted throughout the various bids to expand the park over the years.
The development has involved a contentious diversion by council of a drainage canal to widen a peninsula on which some of the park homes would be built.
Planning director Vince Connell said in his report that the Division of Local Government had provided written confirmation that the proposal did ‘not fall within the category of “controversial development application” under new regulations for council caretaker-period restrictions and therefore council could deal with it at tomorrow’s meeting.
Mr Connell told Echonetdaily that his interpretation of the new rules and definitions concluded the proposal was not ‘designated development’ (for major infrastructure works), therefore not controversial.
At last Thursday’s community access meeting, three residents of the park appealed to councillors to knock back the latest bid.
John Mulligan said most of the park community was made up of elderly widows and widowers and retired couples, and the amenities of the park were presented to buyers as permanent amenities which was a major factor in their decision to buy there.
‘An extremely valued amenity of this park is the nature trail along the north bank of the lake. It is enjoyed on a daily basis by residents and visitors alike and its therapeutic benefits to the elderly residents are central to their daily routine,’ Mr Mulligan said.
‘The land proposed for this development would totally remove this nature walk and most of the park’s existing useable open space.
‘The developer claims sufficient open space but 90 per cent of what will be left is the lake itself, which, though it’s pretty, is not usable open space. There is insufficient land on site, so the developer is forced to build a wharf-like structure on hundreds of poles driven into the lake bed to support homes jutting nine metres out over the lake.
‘The park owner’s mission statement at point of sale was that there will never be more than 254 homes in this park. In 1996 this developer initially obtained approval to build 234 homes.
‘It was a condition of that approval that no homes were to be built on the north bank.
‘In 2000 he obtained approval for an additional 20 homes. It was a condition of that approval that no homes were to be built along the north bank. That made it 254 in all and Mr Noble declared there would be no more built.
‘If there was no existing right to build on the north bank as a condition of the original development and no existing right to build on the north bank as a condition of the 20-home extension, I fail to see how shifting a public facility creates an existing right where none existed.
‘What we have left does not come close to 10 per cent of the estate. The owner may be able to build over the lake but we can’t walk over it.
‘Even if you believe that existing rights do apply, do they override the potential environmental and ecological damage caused? Do they override the impact on the lives of the existing residents?
‘What about their existing rights to the peaceful enjoyment of their amenities? Do they override the existing right of the neighbours on the north boundaries to maintain the buffer between their rural properties and the developer’s urban sprawl.
‘Since 2005, in all consent authorities’ determinations and court rulings in connection with any further development on this site have resulted in rejection, on the basis that no, they do not.
‘NSW Fisheries manager Mr Patrick Dwyer states in a response to council that he was most concerned about the potential for pollution by this habitation above the lake, which feeds into the main Chinderah canal and then onto the Tweed River.
‘The wharf itself remains the property and the responsibility of the park owner and, on current maintenance performance, you might ask how long before it resembles an abandoned dockyard or Asian fishing village along the Yangtze River.
‘Council assessment recognises the value of the nature trail to the residents but then concurs with the owner’s rebuttal that we can walk around the local community. Is it fair and reasonable to demand $7,000 a year to pay for amenities in a closed community and then be told to walk around the local streets because the developer wants to build more houses on your amenities? These amenities are not gifts; we pay for them.’