A property owner is alarmed at the future of the Coffs Harbour City Centre.
A property owner is alarmed at the future of the Coffs Harbour City Centre. TREVOR VEALE

The heart of city centre will be broken

A CITY centre property owner and developer is alarmed at the push to get ministerial approval for a change to Coffs Harbour's local environment plan (LEP).

In a letter to councillors Lance Cousins said he was baffled by the April 11 motion to vary the allowable building area of "office and business" premises on B6 zoned land from 150sqm to 600sqm.

"I write as a concerned citizen, a CBD property owner and a retail property design-and-development professional with 50 years experience in commercial and retail property," Mr Cousins wrote.

"Council recently adopted the Coffs Harbour CBD Master Plan compiled by professional consultants Roberts-Day at a cost of $225,000 which reaffirmed in detail, support for the long-standing hierarchy of the CBD and also set down a budget of works to be implemented and funded by a special rate applied to CBD property owners.

"Since the result of council's recent decision would be a dramatic dilution of the CBD hierarchy by the quad- rupling of the currently allowable office space else- where in the LGA, it would seem pointless for property owners to be contributing to the upgrading of CBD facilities by the application of a special rate.

Mr Cousins argues that "strong multi-functional town centres should be maintained to focus the drawing power of individual businesses and maintain the integrity of the main business area by only zoning land for further commercial or retail development where that development adjoins or is adjacent to the existing town centre."

He said in the US cities of Dallas and Houston where a laissez faire zoning approach ruled in the '70s and '80s massive amounts of time and money were now being spent to bring moribund CBD's back to life.

"It has been suggested that some councillors have requested the variations to the LEP through frustration with the inaction of some CBD property owners. While there may be some justification for this frustration, there is no justification for potentially destroying the businesses of current hardworking CBD retailers and the investments of courageous developers such as Gowings.

"There is no place for petulance in the formulation good public policy.

"It is imperative that the council understands that successful retailers must provide a "shopping experience" which needs to be supported by a critical mass of both retailing and commercial office and service premises located within the CBD. This will only be achievable within the co-operative framework of the CBD.

"When councillors make decisions such as that proposed, they can involve council in very costly amendment processes. This process should be considered for only for the most-soundly based of variations," Mr Cousins said..

Council's request for an amendment to the LEP is in direct conflict with the major objectives of the LEP, the City Centre DCP and the CBD Master Plan. It would spell disaster for Coffs Harbour in commercial and cultural terms.

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