Council was given the deadline of January 20 to respond to the submissions in relation to their development application for the Cultural and Civic Space.
Council was given the deadline of January 20 to respond to the submissions in relation to their development application for the Cultural and Civic Space.

Council calls for more time to wade through submissions

COFFS Harbour City Council has been overwhelmed with the number of public submissions in response to their development application for the $76.5m Cultural and Civic Space.

A whopping 874 submissions were submitted to the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment who will ultimately be responsible for approving or denying the application.

Council was given the deadline of January 20 to respond to the submission but this week contacted the Department requesting extra time.

In his eight years as a Planning Officer Rodger Roppolo says this project is a stand out.

"It's probably the most contentious project I've worked on given the amount of objections received," Mr Roppolo said.

The vast majority of submissions were against the Gordon St proposal which will include a library, art gallery, public spaces, a café and council offices.

 

TEMPERS FLARE: Councillors took the unusual step of meeting at Coffs Central in July to speak with residents about the proposal.
TEMPERS FLARE: Councillors took the unusual step of meeting at Coffs Central in July to speak with residents about the proposal.

The proposal has divided councillors four:four on a number of occasions with Mayor Denise Knight forced to use her deciding vote to progress the project although she has recently declined to do this, saying a tied vote means the motion is lost based on their code of conduct.

There have also been claims of political interference from former Nationals Member for Coffs Harbour Andrew Fraser who has been a vocal critic of the project.

 

VOCAL CRITIC: Andrew Fraser chairing a meeting at Norm Jordan Pavilion in July last year.
VOCAL CRITIC: Andrew Fraser chairing a meeting at Norm Jordan Pavilion in July last year.

These claims stemmed from a freedom of information request, under what's now known as the Government Information Public Access (GIPA) Act, which revealed the project was recommended for $9m in funding from the State Government's Regional Cultural Fund. An independent panel ranked it 16th in a list of over 150 projects.

Mr Fraser denies any political interference and has shown no signs of walking away from the issue.

"I'm not going to let this lie - I'm going to continue to fight against this waste of money when there are cheaper alternatives out there," Mr Fraser said.

"I am no longer a State politician but I'm telling you as a citizen, that as far as I'm concerned this council's as rotten as a chop."

His was one of the 874 public submissions recently submitted to the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

Mr Roppolo was unable to put a timeframe on the approval process once Council's response to submissions is received.

"It's hard to stipulate a timeframe. We may need to request more information from the applicant - it all depends on what information comes back to us."



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