Members of the Norther Beaches Alliance gathered at the council offices yesterday to support its efforts to preserve Hearnes Lake from development. They cheered as general manager Steve McGrath announced the decision to take legal action.
Members of the Norther Beaches Alliance gathered at the council offices yesterday to support its efforts to preserve Hearnes Lake from development. They cheered as general manager Steve McGrath announced the decision to take legal action.

Hearnes Lake a community victory

COFFS Harbour City Council has begun proceedings in the Land and Environment Court against the NSW Minister for Planning Tony Kelly.

The council is challenging the validity of the concept plan approval by the Minister for a 200-lot subdivision at Hearnes Lake through Class 4 proceedings, which involve a judicial review of the approval.

The council has been advised it has no options for appeal on the grounds of the merits of the proposal.

On December 20, Mr Kelly granted concept approval for the Sandy Shores development site under Part 3A of the state planning legislation, which bypasses local council guidelines.

The 49.5ha Sandy Shores site on the northern side of Hearnes Lake is bounded by Safety Beach, the Pacific Highway and the Pacific Ocean.

The council’s 2005 Development Control Plan for the Hearnes Lake and Sandy Beach area 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.

The Sandy Shores development was put forward in 2006 directly to the Department of Planning. The project was eligible for this process because it is valued at more than $5 million and involves a coastal site, bringing it within the current Part 3A planning guidelines of being ‘of state significance’.

Coffs Harbour City Council made a series of submissions and provided advice to the DoP on its concerns about development of the site from 2006 to November 2010.

Coffs Harbour City Council general manager, Steve McGrath, who said the decision to go ahead with the legal action was a matter under delegated authority, was supported yesterday by the mayor Keith Rhoades, who said the council had been looking at its legal position in relation to Hearnes Lake and the Part 3A issue since last year.

“In doing so we’ve been mindful of the widespread community opposition to the Sandy Shores concept approval – an opposition shared by council,” he said.

“Taking into account the community opposition and the legal advice received, the council has decided to commence legal proceedings.”

Cr Rhoades said he had been ‘buoyed’ by the strong community support but the council had not been able to broadcast its plans earlier because it wanted to avoid possible interference by government – as happened in the case last week involving Sydney’s

Barangaroo development, when the Government changed the rules during the case but before the judge made his ruling.

Councillors had been kept ‘in the loop’ on the legal action, Mr McGrath said.

The GM said five of the nine Coffs Harbour City councillors had attended a briefing on the various options available and there were various reasons why several of those not present had not been able to attend. Mr McGrath said there had been no decision made on a budget for the legal action.

“It is very much in the hands of court processes now,” he said.

Mr McGrath said the importance of the concept approval was that all the various stages of the development work on the site which required approval would be assessed only in terms of the concept approval – the terms of the council’s own alternative planning instruments would not apply, because they had not been included in the concept application.

He said what council considered to be the inadequate conditions of consent therefore had longer-term implications which had to be weighed up against the legal costs of fighting the case.

Sandy Shores representative Peter Darby said yesterday the company had not yet taken the next step with the subdivision, which would involve submitting a development application to the Department of Planning.

Mr Darby said he could not comment at this stage on the Coffs Harbour City Council’s legal action, which is against the Department of Planning, not the developer, as he had not seen details of the proceedings.



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