- Breaking News -10.30am

COFFS Harbour City Council has commenced proceedings in the Land and Environment Court against the Minister for Planning, challenging the validity of the concept plan approval for a 200-lot subdivision at Hearnes Lake.

 On December 20 2010, the NSW Planning Minister Tony Kelly granted a concept approval for the Sandy Shores development site at Hearnes Lake under Part 3A of the State planning legislation.

 “Following that approval, council sought legal advice on our appeal options,” Council's general manager Steve McGrath said. 

“The preliminary advice we received was that there was no option for an appeal on the grounds of the merit of the approval, because Part 3A of the planning legislation provides that merit appeals by third parties are not available where a concept plan has been approved.

 “However, we have been advised that there are reasonable grounds for judicial review of the approval. As a result, we have made an application to begin Class 4 proceedings in the Land and Environment Court.”

 Council adopted a Development Control Plan (DCP) for the Hearnes Lake/Sandy Beach area in 2005 following widespread community consultation.

That DCP stipulated that the site could only accommodate 35 housing lots because of the restrictions caused by access, traffic flows, flooding, coastal inundation, ecological and habitat sensitivities.

However, the Sandy Shores proposal for 280 lots was put forward in 2006 directly to the Department of Planning under the Part 3A planning process, which bypasses local planning guidelines.

Since the lodgement of the concept plan application, Council made a series of thorough submissions and provided advice to the Department that outlined its serious concerns over the access, flooding, coastal inundation and environmental considerations of the site.

These concerns were again raised when the Department indicated it was going to issue a draft concept approval for 200 lots on November 22 2010. Despite Council sending a further 85-page submission in response to that advice, the Minister signed off on the concept plan approval on December 20.

“Since then, Council has been looking at its legal position in regards to Hearnes Lake and the Part 3A issue,” Coffs Harbour Mayor, Councillor Keith Rhoades said.

“In doing so, we’ve been mindful of the widespread community opposition to the Sandy Shores concept approval – an opposition shared by Council. Taking into account the community opposition and the legal advice received, the Council has decided to commence legal proceedings,” he said.

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