Mayor Denise Knight welcomes the DA approval while MP Gurmesh Singh has urged a rethink.
Mayor Denise Knight welcomes the DA approval while MP Gurmesh Singh has urged a rethink.

Finally, a decision on Cultural and Civic Space DA

THE development application for the Cultural and Civic Space has been approved.

Mayor Denise Knight was out and about this morning presenting awards but took a short break to share her thoughts.

"What a wonderful Christmas present," Cr Knight said.

"I had every faith in our project team and staff and the vision of this project.

"Thanks to NSW Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes and the community for their support."

She was also keen to thank her fellow Councillors.

While they have been divided four/four on the project at a number of crucial stages she has no doubt they will all work together as a united team to get the job done.

One Councillor who has consistently voted to support the project is Cr SallyTownley and she also welcomed the "fantastic" news.

"There has been a lot of controversy and debate around the project," Cr Townley said.

"Every other regional town developing large scale cultural infrastructure projects has experienced the same thing. But once the project is complete, those towns embrace the facilities and don't look back.

"I believe it will be the same for Coffs Harbour."

Janet Besancon, originally from France, outside chambers last week to show her support. Photo Janine Watson
Janet Besancon, originally from France, outside chambers last week to show her support. Photo Janine Watson

But Coffs MP Gurmesh Singh issued a statement today saying he was disappointed, but not surprised, that the DA was approved.

"It apparently does not meet the criteria for refusal under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

"I reiterate that I do not support this project and that the decision to proceed has been made by our elected councillors.

"I have often reflected on why this project in particular is so divisive. I can only conclude that there is a general dissatisfaction with the project and the way the council has managed the process to date."

He says the community feedback to his office over the last 18 months has been an overwhelming rejection of the project.

"The elected councillors were infamously split 4-4 on the decision to proceed. I urge all councillors, regardless of how they have voted in the past, to reconsider whether this project should go ahead in its current form."

For years, the Coffs Coast Advocate has been following the issue closely.

TIMELINE

September 2018 - Cheers for decision to fast track Cultural and Civic Space

A DECISION to accelerate plans for the new Cultural and Civic Space was met with cheers and applause from a packed council chambers.

The latest 'reveals' of the Cultural and Civic Space show what the top floor will look like.
The latest 'reveals' of the Cultural and Civic Space show what the top floor will look like.

The motion involved accelerating the project by committing $2 million for Schematic Designs and the preparation of a Development Application in 2018/19.

A building contractor is to be appointed early in the process with the understanding they are to keep to an agreed cost.

Mayor Denise Knight spoke passionately in favour of 'getting on with the job'.

"We need to expedite this. It is our time... our time for culture and art to be in the city centre."

FULL STORY HERE

Cr Paul Amos.
Cr Paul Amos. Trevor Veale

July 2019 - Cr Paul Amos warns cost blowouts on civic space could be crippling

The warning from Cr Amos came as Coffs Harbour City councillors debated over whether or not to include $700,000 in their upcoming budget for the Northern Beaches Multi Purpose Centre.

"All of our oxygen is getting sucked away by the city centre building and now we are fighting over the scraps," Cr Paul Amos said.

He warned costs could blow out to as much as $100-million with disastrous consequences for council and ratepayers.

FULL STORY HERE

Council Meeting Re Cultural and Civic space development.. 11 July 2019
Council Meeting Re Cultural and Civic space development.. 11 July 2019 Trevor Veale

July 2019 - WALK OUT: Council chaos as standoff continues

ONE of the councillors behind the extraordinary walk out at last week's Council meeting makes no apology for his stance but the Office of Local Government has warned they're closely monitoring the situation.

Cr Keith Rhoades has been highly critical of the proposed Cultural and Civic Space and was one of four councillors to walk out of the recent meeting (and another meeting reconvened the next day in an attempt to resolve the matter).

Accompanied by Councillors John Arkan, Tegan Swan and Paul Amos he walked out of the meeting as it appeared their rescission motion (calling for a halt to the project) would be lost.

FULL STORY

Gurmesh Singh  acting mayor Tegan Swan at jetty foreshore plan annoucement.. 27 MAY 2019
Gurmesh Singh acting mayor Tegan Swan at jetty foreshore plan annoucement.. 27 MAY 2019 TREVOR VEALE

August 2019 - Deputy Mayor takes to social media to improve engagement

THE Deputy Mayor has created a Facebook group to improve what she believes is inadequate community engagement by Coffs Harbour City Council.

The catalyst was last week's decision to progress with the controversial Cultural and Civic Space. She is one of four councillors opposed to progressing with the $76.5 million project in its current form.

FULL STORY HERE

George Partos burning his rates notice outside Coffs Harbour City Council chambers in protest against the planned Cultural and Civic Space.
George Partos burning his rates notice outside Coffs Harbour City Council chambers in protest against the planned Cultural and Civic Space.

December 2019 - Freedom of information search shows project was recommended for $9m

A persistent narrative from those opposed to the Cultural and Civic Space is that it will never attract government funding, largely due to the inclusion of council offices.

But the results of a freedom of information search are challenging this view.

Local lawyer Heather McKinnon put in the application for information under what's now known as the Government Information Public Access (GIPA) Act.

FULL STORY HERE

A freedom of information search by local lawyer Heather McKinnon revealed the project had been ranked highly for funding which was never forthcoming.
A freedom of information search by local lawyer Heather McKinnon revealed the project had been ranked highly for funding which was never forthcoming.

April 2020 - 'How dare he' warns Mayor as State MP weighs in

COFFS Harbour MP Gurmesh Singh wrote to Coffs Harbour City Councillors prior to tonight's meeting urging them to halt the Cultural and Civic Space.

The move has angered mayor Denise Knight who has consistently voted to progress with the project.

"How dare he - shame on him. We need to create hope and optimism during this pandemic," Cr Knight said.

FULL STORY

August 2020 - DA update on Cultural and Civic Space

WITH the NSW Government encouraging local councils to pursue major infrastructure projects to keep the economy alive, the Advocate has questioned the time taken to assess the development application for the Cultural and Civic Space.

The DA is currently with the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment and received over 800 submissions during the public exhibition period.

Speaking to the Advocate earlier in the year, planning officer Rodger Roppolo said the project was a stand out.

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

FULL STORY

September 2020 - George Partos burns rates in protest

RETIRED businessman George Partos took the dramatic action of burning his rates notice outside Coffs Harbour City Council chambers.

It's his latest protest against the Cultural and Civic Space.

"It didn't take long for them to burn - they went up very bloody quickly, it was amazing," Mr Partos said.

FULL STORY 

November 2020 - Protesters give project the tick prior to sale vote

Protesters in support of the Cultural and Civic Space outnumbered those against it, at the November 26 Coffs Harbour City Council meeting.

An offer of $2,100,000 was on the table and Councillors voted to accept the offer.

Councillors who voted in favour of the sale were Michael Adendorff, Sally Townley, George Cecato and Denise Knight and those against were Keith Rhoades, Tegan Swan, Paul Amos and John Arkan.

Mayor Knight used her casting vote to progress with the sale.

FULL STORY HERE

 



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