By Darren Coyne
Richmond Valley Council has asked for more information in relation to a development application for the controversial Iron Gates site at Evans Head.
The Echonetdaily reported yesterday that Gold Coral Pty Ltd had lodged an application for 178 lots on 18.2 hectares of the riverfront site.
Environmental activist Al Oshlack, whose legal challenge stopped proposed development on the environmentally sensitive site in the 1990s, has slammed the new proposal.
Mr Oshlack commissioned an independent assessment of the proposal’s flora and fauna impacts, which found a number of deficiencies in the proposal.
Meanwhile, RVC general manager John Walker said almost 60 submissions had been received.
Mr Walker said the applicant had been asked to provide further information.
He said issues raised included the adequacy of the flora and fauna assessment prepared by the applicant, through to the potential impacts of Iron Gates on future development of the Evans Head Aerodrome.
Concerns had been raised about the proximity of the RAAF’s Evans Head bombing range, the impact of the outstanding court orders related to a previous DA on the land, Aboriginal cultural heritage and the impact of residential development, and the economic impacts of an increased population, as well as infrastructure issues.
Mr Walker said there was a lot of support for the development within the Evans Head business community but ‘clearly there was a lot of opposition also’.
He said as with all development applications received by the council, the proposal was undergoing ‘a full professional and technical assessment’ to ensure it met relevant NSW Government legislation and planning controls.
He said following the council’s own assessment, and from issues raised in the submissions and by some government agencies, more information was now being sought from Gold Coral.
He said having the right information about the proposal was critical to proper assessment of the DA.
‘All DAs should be treated on their merits,’ Mr Walker said.
‘Therefore, council has requested additional material, or a formal response, from the applicant based on matters raised by the public, as well as from our own assessment of the DA.
‘Once received, a report will be compiled and forwarded to the Northern Joint Regional Planning Panel (NJPP) for final determination.’
After decades of uncertainty, the development came back on the radar in June last year after residents complained of alleged illegal clearing at the site.
The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage confirmed it was investigating the clearing of the site, which is bordered by the Evans River, and national parks.
Despite that investigation, the development application was lodged and advertised.
The new development company, Coast Coral Pty Ltd is headed up by Graeme Ingles, whose company Iron Gates Pty Ltd gained approval for 650 houses back in the 1990s.
At the time Mr Ingles was pushing for 800 lots on the site but activists blockaded the site and legal action was launched against the developer.
Bordered on three sides by national park, the land contains rare coastal rainforest remnants, sites of Aboriginal significance, a wetland and an abundance of wildlife, including koalas and other threatened species.
The subdivision was about to go on sale in 1997 after an access road, including a bridge, was built, and sewer and water lines laid.
The NSW Environmental Defenders Office, acting for Mr Oshlack, challenged the development successfully in the NSW Land and Environment Court, which ordered in 1997 that the consent be declared null and void.
In a later judgment, the court also ordered the road be ripped up and the environment remediated. That work was never carried out, nor were costs paid to the plaintiff, which had been awarded by the court.
The developer filed for bankruptcy and started legal action against the Richmond Valley Council but the council argued the developer did not fully follow the development application.
The court dismissed the developer’s action in 2009, but not before the council had spent almost $1 million in legal fees defending itself.