David Brown, Mullumbimby.
You leave Mullumbimby for a month and what happens? You guessed it, another DA for inappropriate development appears. This time, a large camp ground on one of the Shire’s most dangerous roads, Coolamon Scenic Drive.
It’s in a RU2 Rural Landscape zone. The LEP states ‘…small scale rural tourism uses associated with primary production and environmental conservation…’ is one of five clear zone objectives. Can anyone explain how 239 camping and caravan sites, a large yoga hall, a day spa, six cabins, a kiosk, around 70 separate visitor parking spaces, substantial excavation and grading, and an oversized ‘manager’s residence’ could, even in the wildest imagination, be considered small scale?
Clause 6.8 of the LEP reinforces the zone objective adding that: ’Development consent must not be granted to tourism development … unless the consent authority is satisfied that … the development is small scale and low impact, and the development is complementary to the rural or environmental attributes of the land and its surrounds.’ Clearly the camp ground DA must be rejected on the basis it’s not small scale, it’s not low impact and it adversely impacts on the agricultural production, scenic and environmental values of the land.
Traffic is another significant issue. The DA report only addresses the entry intersection on Coolamon Scenic Drive. Of more concern is the impact increased traffic will have on the busy and often dangerous Coolamon Scenic Drive/Main Arm Road intersection. In addition to high vehicle speeds and poor sight lines, there is no safe footpath or dedicated cycleway between the site and the Mullumbimby town centre. This means movement into and out of the site will be vehicular and it is hard to believe the cabins, campsites and 150 daily visitors will only generate 206 morning and afternoon peak movements. The estimated development traffic generation figures underlying the traffic report should therefore be challenged as inappropriate or understatements despite what the codes might say.
Then there is the claim minimal site works are involved. Careful examination of the drawings, and site contours, clearly indicates that most of the buildings are to be on level platforms with retaining walls up to 1.4 metres or more high and substantial amounts of excavation. In addition, the vehicle swept paths and turning circles shown in the traffic report fail to acknowledge that many of the camping sites are on relatively steep slopes. Many have cross-falls of a metre or more, those in the north-east section three and four metres. Level timber platforms are a proposed solution but will require footing excavations, ongoing maintenance and, in many cases, safety fences. All of which add construction and recurrent costs while not necessarily making access for cars with caravans easier. Excavating platforms and building retaining walls cannot be considered minimal site works.
The planner’s report concludes with the following statement: ‘It is recommended that Council approve this blending development which does not alter the rural character of this area, and which is exemplary in its high level of amenity and aesthetic character.’ Please, give me a break! What does ‘blending development’ mean? Is it just another ’buzz word’ intended to bemuse the public and assessing officers alike? Or is it supposed to convey the impression that the development will not alter the area’s rural character. Clearing and other work carried out on the site has already altered the area’s rural character. The proposed campground development will irrevocably damage it.
Finally, when will hackneyed words like ‘high level amenity’ or ‘low cost accommodation’ or ‘achieving ecologically sustainable development’ be removed from the planning vocabulary? Some landowners, and their consultants, seem to believe they will, if repeated often enough, seduce Council into approving inherently bad development. In the Coolamon Scenic Drive DA context they are, at best, embellishments to be ignored.
DA110/2018 for 1897 Coolamon Scenic Drive is a bad, inappropriate development. It must be rejected and, if necessary, Council must strongly defend its decision if Land & Environment Court action is a consequence.