Cultural and Civic Space given the green light by State Government

Cultural and Civic Space given the green light by State Government


THE long awaited decision on the controversial $76.5 million Cultural and Civic Space project was revealed on Monday, with State Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes approving the development application for the project.

Minister Stokes had previously put a pause on the decision, seeking additional time to assess the extensive amount of public submissions received on the project, including 794 submissions of objection and 19 in support of the project.

A petition, containing more than 10,000 signatures, was also submitted to the NSW Parliament by Coffs Harbour MP Gurmesh Singh.

The petition requested that the Minister for Local Government intervene and pause the project to enable further community consultation and consideration of alternative options for a new performing arts facility, art gallery, library and museum.

Key planning issues raised in public submissions related to car parking, traffic, bulk and scale and visual impact, and non-planning issues raised included the potential cost of the project, the inclusion of Council offices, and the Council’s decision making process in pursuing the project.

The project has divided the Coffs Harbour community and split Coffs Harbour City councillors, with four councillors voting for the project and four against, and Mayor Denise Knight using her casting vote to proceed the project.

Mayor Denise Knight said she was “over the moon” following the recent announcement.

“I’m so glad that Minister Stokes and the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment see the immense value this amazing community facility will bring to current and future generations of the Coffs Coast community,” Cr Knight said.

“It will improve access to educational resources, art, culture, history and creative facilities.

“It will be a central, welcoming meeting place that brings us together to learn, share community knowledge and skills which are vital to set our future generations up for success.”

The new building will house the Regional Gallery, Central Library, Regional Museum, multipurpose meeting and rooftop terrace for community use, a co-working space, maker space and digital creative studio, a Council customer service area and Council offices.

Coffs Harbour City Council General Manager Steve McGrath said to say the Council was very pleased with the DA approval would be an understatement.

“This is a public community facility that will stand the test of time and will help our youth gain the necessary skills and knowledge they need to thrive as our regional city grows,” Mr McGrath said.

“Now that the State Significant DA has been approved, we will be continuing the development of the detailed design for the new building, which is nearing the 80% completed stage.

“We expect, at this stage, for Council to be looking at construction in early 2021.”

State Member for Coffs Harbour Gurmesh Singh said while he was not surprised by the State Government’s decision to approve the project, he was “disappointed”.

“I reiterate that I do not support this project and that the decision to proceed has been made by our elected councillors,” Mr Singh said.

“There was a general dissatisfaction with the project and the way the council has managed the process to date.

“The community feedback to my office over the last 18 months has been an overwhelming rejection of this project.”

Mr Singh urged Coffs Harbour City councillors to reconsider whether the project should go ahead in its current form, regardless of how they voted for the project in the past.

This plea was seconded by Coffs Harbour resident and critical opponent of the Cultural and Civic Space project, George Partos.

“I would encourage as a matter of principle and a matter of process, the four good councillors to do something fairly dramatic to send a message to Shelley Hancock (Minister for Local Government) that it’s a dysfunctional Council,” Mr Partos said.

“It’s not an operational harmonic Council, and not acting in the interests of the majority of people.”

Mr Partos said the project should not have been able to proceed on the casting vote of Mayor Denise Knight.

“It’s basically a travesty of our democracy that a project of this magnitude does not have widespread support, and is pushed through a casting vote of the mayor,” Mr Partos said.

“It’s crazy, the damage these people can do on a casting vote will be astronomical.

“I feel that our democracy on a local level has reached a new low.”

Mr Partos said the four councillors who voted for the Cultural and Civic Space would get their “just desserts” once the next local government elections rolled around.

“They will get their desserts, unfortunately after they’ve done their damage, at the next election,” Mr Partos said.

“The irony of the fact is that if we had of had the elections like we should of had in September, there wouldn’t have been a problem because the elected councillors would have acted on behalf of the majority, and everything would have been okay.“

Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes granted consent to the Cultural and Civic Space project on Tuesday, 17 November, subject to recommended conditions.

Key reasons for granting consent included the project being permissible with development consent, the project fully complying with planning controls applying to the site, the project was deemed to not result in any significant visual or amenity impacts on the surrounding area, and the project was deemed to not result in any unacceptable traffic or car parking impacts.

The development application for the Cultural and Civic Space project was assessed by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE), as it is considered to be a State Significant Development.

Such applications are considered by the DPIE for reasons of size, economic value or potential impacts.

The DPIE conducted a site inspection, and responded to numerous enquiries from interested community members during the assessment process.



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