PROPOSALS to develop a huge subdivision surrounding Hearnes Lake north of Sandy Beach have stirred a hornet’s nest of fury among locals.
Councillors, planners, residents and environmentalists have united in a chorus of protest, saying the proposal contradicts all the other studies and planning done on the area and will prove the death knell for Hearnes Lake and a disaster for Sandy Beach.
The proposed subdivision, which if approved would yield multi-million dollar beachside lots on part of the site, was described as “a total disaster for lots of reasons” by former Coffs Harbour City councillor Rod McKelvey, who has been following plans and studies on the area for more than a decade.
A hastily-convened protest meeting at Hearnes Lake yesterday attracted residents worried about everything from the effect on endangered species to flooding and from traffic to rising sea levels.
Protest organiser and Sandy Beach resident Jo Gaggin said the proposal was “a kick in the guts for residents”.
“It’s outrageous – Sandy Beach will be completely destroyed,” she said.
“Everyone understood there were going to be 35 houses here and we had settled for that.”
Coffs Harbour City Councillor Mark Graham said the area was largely a swamp and an independent ecologist commissioned by the Department of Planning some years ago to review the proposal had concluded it was highly inappropriate.
A spokesman for the Department of Planning said the department was still assessing the concept plan application for a 280-lot residential subdivision at Sandy Beach.
“However, no final decision has been made, nor has the department yet made a recommendation to the minister. As such, it would not be appropriate to speculate on what the final outcome may be,” the spokesman said.
Coffs Harbour City Council’s acting director of land use health and development, Jeff Green, said nothing the council had exhibited had provided for any more than 35 lots.
He said council’s position was the subdivision proposal, being considered under the state government’s Part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act because it involves coastal land, was contrary to its draft development control plan and the draft local environment plan.
Council was given just five days to respond to a request for information on the project last week and was refused an extension of time.
Coffs Harbour City Councillor John Arkan said the council had been “kicked in the face”.
“We have already looked at the environmental issues and other angles and reduced the number of housing lots from more than 300 down to 35,” CrArkan said.
“It is a kick in the face for councillors and the community.”
The Member for Coffs Harbour Andrew Fraser said council should have been given a time extension.
He said if the issue had arisen earlier, he could have raised the matter in state parliament, which has now risen for the Christmas recess, but he would contact the director general of planning, Sam Haddad, next week.
He said the Coalition had already said it would overturn the Part 3A planning process, because Coalition MPs believed it weas not being used in the manner originally intended by the legislation.
Local residents are planning a follow-up meeting at 11am on December 11 at the reserve at the end of Hearnes Lake road.
Inquiries can be made by calling Di Ericson on 0432 477 317.