Community concern over Development Application for Nelson Bay tower

The original protest against the tower which the community cannot duplicate due to Covid-19 restrictions. Photo: Marian Sampson.

 

NELSON Bay has a history of DA’s where heights are challenged.

Today an application is in place for a tower that could come to dominate the landscape.

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The application is for a building that will sit 29% above the existing height limit for the site.

Back in 2016 residents came out in numbers to protest the proposed development and since then the crane has languished on the site.

The Tomaree Residents And Ratepayers Association (TRRA) has stated that, “As in 2016, TRRA welcomes the willingness of a developer to invest in the town and we have always looked forward to the prospect of a good new development to replace the unsightly vacant site/hole that has blighted the town for too long.

“We also welcome the interesting new design, which has a lot of attractive features.

“However, the proposed building is simply too high, and defies the clear intent of Council in setting new height limits less than a year ago.”

TRRA President Ben van der Wijngaart, observed that this defies the clear intent of Council in setting new height limits less than a year ago, after more than a decade of community consultation and many expert studies.

“This limit was adopted to protect the character and natural setting of Nelson Bay township and any variation should be minimal and only granted in exceptional circumstances.

“A critical test in the planning law is to demonstrate why complying with the height limit would be unreasonable or unnecessary.

“This application fails to make such a case,” he said.

The proposed building would be nearly a third higher (29%) than the 28 metre limit for this site and this is an issue that is causing some angst among the community.

Port Stephens Mayor Cr Ryan Palmer has never shied away from his plan to build the town centres higher in the region.

Ben van der Wijngaart said that, “Unless the design is changed to comply with the height controls, Councillors should follow through on their commitment to the Nelson Bay Strategy, and refuse this DA”

This DA is being scrutinised by a Council that for all intents and purposes should be in caretaker mode – they have had their tenure extended purely due to a pandemic.

Councils are expected to assume a “caretaker” role during election periods to ensure that major decisions are not made which would limit the actions of an incoming council.

However Council is planning to vote on a major development outside the height limitations.

TRRA believes that the application does not demonstrate why complying with the height limit would be ‘unreasonable or unnecessary’ – a test in the planning law it has to pass.

“In this case, the applicant should be asked to reduce the height of the building so that it complies with the recently adopted limits and meets community expectations.

There is no evidence that a building that complies with the height limit could not be commercially viable – it might just be less profitable.

By applying for an eleven storey building 29% over the height limit, the applicant in this case is demonstrating defiance against the clearly expressed wishes of the local community.

Members of the community are calling for Council staff and Councillors to follow through on their commitment to the Nelson Bay Strategy, as implemented in the amendments last year to the Local Environmental Plan, and refuse this DA, unless the design is changed to comply with height limits.

 

By Marian SAMPSON

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