Hotly contested subdivision may still go ahead

THE company behind a controversial residential development south of Woolgoolga at Hearnes Lake - Sandy Shores Developments Pty Ltd - has been put into external administration by the Westpac Bank.

As a result, a land parcel that has been on the front line of a war over coastal development for more than 30 years may once again change hands.

Westpac is believed to be the company's major secured creditor.

Receivers and managers for the company are Brett Lord and Mark Robinson from PPB Advisory Pty Ltd.

The receivers' report to the Australian Securities and Investment Commission listed the company's major assets as vacant land at Hearnes Lake and two houses at Sandy Beach owned by Sandy Shores Developments Pty Ltd Unit Trust.

The report said a valuation figure must be withheld as it was commercially sensitive and "could prejudice the outcome of the potential future sale of these assets".

Coffs Harbour City Council applied for a judicial review in the Land and Environment Court after Sandy Shores Developments Pty Ltd won concept approval for a 200-lot subdivision on the low-lying, environmentally sensitive coastal land at Hearnes Lake in December 2010.

That approval was given by NSW Planning and then-NSW Planning Minister Tony Kelly under the Part 3A planning legislation, a decision that led to rallies and angry demonstrations in Coffs Harbour.

The council wanted a 35-lot subdivision that was restricted to the highest portion of the 49.5ha site due to concerns about inundation and loss of environmental values.

The 3A planning approval process was later repealed but the council lost the judicial review case and a subsequent appeal.

Coffs Harbour City Council general manager Steve McGrath said yesterday the development company's altered status did not mean a great deal for the council because Part 3A approvals had a five-year shelf life, which made the original approval valid until December 20, 2015, no matter who owned the land.

This means if the land is sold before next December, it will be sold with a development approval in place.

That deadline can be extended if the owners can demonstrate substantial physical commencement.

The council was left with a bill for costs after losing its legal actions, but Mr McGrath said the council had negotiated with the two respondents - Sandy Shores Developments Pty Ltd and the Minister for Planning and his department.

He said the council reached an agreement with both parties that had seen the council spend much less than originally budgeted and substantially less than the $400,000 it was feared the legal challenge could cost.

After winning the case last year, a spokesman for Sandy Shores Developments Pty Ltd, Peter Darby, accused the council of using court action as a delay tactic.

At that time, Mr Darby also said he expected the company to inject $14 million into the project, providing a significant boost to the local economy.

In November, Sandy Shores Pty Ltd applied to Planning and Infrastructure NSW to increase the number of building blocks in the Sandy Shores subdivision to 280 and to remove some other limiting conditions of the original 2010 concept approval, including the requirement to ban cats and dogs from the subdivision and to set aside a dedicated 6ha nature reserve.

The council continues to favour restricting development on the site.

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