After more than 20 years of investigation, Lismore Council last night approved plans for a 300-home housing development at Pineapple Road, near Richmond Hill.
The proposal will now be sent to the planning department for final determination via the new gateway process.
At Lismore’s first council meeting for the new term, councillors (with the exception of the Greens’ Vanessa Ekins) voted in favour of rezoning the land in Pineapple Road, Goonellabah, and adjoining land in Richmond Hill Road, Richmond Hill.
The motion was not without controversy, with several councillors lamenting that prime agricultural and state-significant farmland was being turned into a housing estate. But the proponents claim this applies to just five per cent of the total land area.
Cr Isaac Smith acknowledged positive adaptations made to the original proposal.
‘The big plus for me is what we have done as a council, and to correct the mistakes from the past. There was a small number of lots in an area that we know could hold a lot more. It is right on the urban fringe and we know for a fact that rural-residential doesn’t have the shine that it used to.
‘What we have done through design charettes [workshops] is now a development that is interesting and unique, well placed with a good mix of lot sizes, a commercial area and road upgrades.
‘Having some smaller lot sizes really gives us housing choices for the future. We know through our housing strategy that we don’t cater to our over-55 market – we don’t have enough two-bedroom places, townhouses and small developments.
‘Urban developments on Pineapple Road, Invercauld Road and the North Lismore Plateau are putting forward a mix of densities that we should be proud of. This is saying that Lismore will be providing some leadership on making a community a good place to live and supporting many different types of housing in our community.’
Speaking against the motion, Greens councillor Vanessa Ekins said the site is ‘active farm land’ and suggested that councillors were ‘waxing lyrical as a few minutes ago you were talking about protection’ during an earlier agenda item.
‘There are pros and cons with this development. There was an excellent design charette process but we are subdividing farmland.
‘This development will be heavily car dependent. There are plans within the subdivision for cycleways and pedestrian footpaths but there is no plan for connecting the development to the Bruxner Highway which we know is a problem. Each year in our budget submissions we hear how kids cannot cross the highway safely.
‘A lot still hangs on the DCP process and that has an uncertain future. I think it is a real shame that a farmer’s last crop is houses.’
Although Cr Graham Meineke supported development in general, he expressed some concerns.
‘I don’t believe this is in the right spot. We are developing the western suburbs of Ballina, not the eastern suburbs of Lismore. With the Alstonville bypass, people will go down to the beach and do their shopping down there. We are not encouraging people to come down to the Lismore CBD for example.
‘I’m happy to support it but let’s make the next cab off the rank North Lismore Plateau.’
Cr Neil Marks sees this development as an ‘infill’ and believes the gateway process will further determine its suitability.
‘We understand this process as we were the first in NSW to get this up and running with the North Lismore Plateau. There are no promises or guarantees and parties can pull out at any time.
‘I have concerns about rural and residential blocks sharing the same access roads; there could be a conflict of usage. These things need to be discussed and the gateway process will look at issues like that.’
Previous to these discussions, councillors had identified agricultural land as being vital in securing local food production and Cr Greg Bennett stressed the importance of ‘regulatory stability’ for farmers.
The Pineapple Road precinct has been zoned in Lismore LEP 1992 and LEP 2000 for the last 20 years as 1 (d) (Investigation Zone). An objective of this zone is to ‘identify land which is to be investigated in respect of its suitability for rezoning’. The Regional City Plan 2005 and the Lismore Rural Housing Strategy 2002 identified the land for potential (large block) rural residential development. The Lismore Urban Strategy was amended in 2011 to incorporate the majority of the proposed R1 land.