Tweed’s new mayor Katie Milne has welcomed council’s unanimous decision to knock back a contentious 65-lot subdivision for a site long earmarked for a high school for the fast growing Pottsville.
Cr Milne, elected as the shire’s first Greens mayor last month, said preserving the site at the Seabreeze estate was ‘the best news’ because ‘the community had put their case very strongly over many years that this site was too important to lose’.
Council planners at their meeting last Thursday recommended refusal of the subdivision as it did not comply with a development control plan for the area identifying the site for a potential school for the booming suburb.
They said council had already resolved in 2013 not to review the issue before 2018, and the subdivision proposal was also inconsistent with planning requirements for a 150-metre buffer to agricultural land (sugar crops) nearby.
Cr Milne said that ‘even though the department of education has long maintained that the numbers are not sufficient for a public secondary school, the community had put their case very strongly over many years that this site was too important to lose, especially without an alternative site having been identified’.
‘Opportunities for a school site in the future development at Dunloe Park at West Pottsville was seen as less than ideal, being less central than the Seabreeze site,’ she said.
‘It was also argued that there was an option for a private secondary school that didn’t seem to have been adequately explored,’ she told Echonetdaily.
‘When the Seabreeze development was approved it was approved with a school site identified,’ she said.
‘Naturally there was an expectation that a school would eventuate.
‘The community has good grounds to be upset by attempts to back track on this plan.
‘Our communities must be able to rely on consistency in planning. Good planning is the cornerstone of well functioning communities.
‘Access to schools is an integral part of our community infrastructure and people have planned their lives around this.
‘Young families have bought into Seabreeze and Pottsville believing a high school would be built.
‘This is such a key site for Pottsville. There are no other school sites identified to replace this one and I have grave doubts that another site could be found in an accessible location.
‘It’s broken promises like these that make people lose faith in developers and government.
‘I am very happy that council is at least sticking with the plan,’ the mayor said.
The Seabreeze high school saga has mired all levels of politics, raised in state parliament and in political campaigns.
Labor and the Greens back community calls for the site to be developed for a high school, as promised by developers when selling lots there, but the Nationals in the coalition, including Tweed MP Geoff Provest, support the education department’s assessment that demand is not there yet for a public high school.
While the vote in council was unanimous, it was made by five of the usual seven councillors.
New deputy mayor Gary Bagnall was unable to attend due to illness and Labor’s Michael Armstrong resigned several months ago to look after his ailing father.
Councillors spat in court
Meanwhile, a spat between Cr Carolyn Byrne and her political opponent Cr Bagnall was in court this week after Cr Byrne pressed for an apprehended violence order (AVO) against him.
The Tweed Heads court yesterday ordered the two councillors to undergo mediation.
Cr Byrne alleged he called her a ‘cow’ and that she ‘felt stressed and anxious’ when dealing with her colleague.
The matter is to be mentioned again next month.
Cr Byrne at last Thursday’s meeting refused to accept Cr Bagnall’s apology for being absent from the meeting due to ill health.
The motion to accept his apology, moved by Crs Milne and Barry Longland, was voted 4-1, with Cr Byrne against.
Cr Byrne consistently voted against Cr Bagnall’s mayoral motions in his one-year term as mayor before cr Milne was elected.