A rezoning of farmland around the sleepy village of Mooball in the Tweed Valley, which could see a tenfold increase in its population, has been given the green light by the state government under its controversial ‘gateway’ policy.
The owners of several farms surrounding the village on the western side of Tweed Valley Way applied under the policy to rezone hundreds of acres of grazing and farming land for a housing estate with a range of differently sized villages and farms.
Last week, the NSW planning department notified Tweed Shire Council it had approved the rezoning under a ‘gateway’ determination, urging Council to accept a plan-making delegation and to facilitate the rezoning by exhibiting the amending Local Environment Plan within 12 months.
The history of the rezoning proposal has been chequered, with one Mooball couple not involved in the plan becoming victim of a monumental stuff-up where their property was rezoned without their knowledge.
Echonetdaily last year reported that the couple had joined calls for an investigation into the process that led to the mistake, which was rectified immediately when the planning department was informed.
The rare mistake was at the time described as an ‘oversight’ by the developers, their consultants and Council planners in their rezoning gateway proposal.
The then Council general manager David Keenan, who was later sacked by the council over other issues, had rejected a call from Cr Gary Bagnall for any further investigation.
The affected landowner, Terry Chapman, wrote to Council, asking:
‘How could our property be overlooked? There are only three homes sitting inside this huge parcel of land, so how can our home be overlooked when you have the landowner who knows we are here, the consultant who is paid to do all the groundwork for this PP [planning proposal] and the developer who is in contact with the landowner showing plans of how their properties will sit inside this proposal and then you have Council.
‘All of these parties didn’t twig to the fact that we don’t belong to the Pirlos. How can all this be conveniently overlooked!’ Mr Chapman wrote.
(The Pirlo family is one of the largest landowners behind the proposal.)
The Chapmans, who run poultry on their small village lot, said, ‘one would think that he would have some memory of our concerns being voiced many times over the past years’.
Council officers said the proponent was in error in submitting an application to Council without the landowner’s consent.
The coalition government’s gateway reviews have in the past come under fire from the Better Planning Network (BPN), and the Greens are calling for it to be scrapped.
The network said the policy was ‘a powerful means for developers to challenge local planning and zoning conditions that have resulted from extensive community consultation’.
‘It’s becoming increasingly clear that this is just another way for developers to trash the wishes of councils and communities,’ BPN’s Corrine Fisher said.
Pre-gateway reviews can be requested by a developer or landowner whenever a council refuses a planning proposal or fails to indicate support for it within 90 days of the appropriate request being made.
Developers can also apply for a review if a proposal is approved but the council imposes requirements or variations that the developer thinks ‘should be reconsidered’.
‘The result is that developers are increasingly using pre-gateway reviews to overturn local controls on issues such as zoning and density,’ said Ms Fisher.