Saturday, May 25, 2024

Concerns over wildlife park compliance loophole

Councillor Romola Hollywood, Mayor Mark Greenhill, Deputy Mayor Chris Van der Kley and Councillor Brent Hoare.

Blue Mountains City Council has been notified that a new and larger proposal for a wildlife park at Wentworth Falls will be treated as a State Significant Development, meaning it will not need to comply with local planning frameworks.

The wildlife park at 10 Great Western Highway, Wentworth Falls, could include a 56 room hotel style tourist accommodation, education and cultural exhibits, walking trails and viewing platforms, food and beverage facilities, retail (souvenir and gift shop) and a function centre. 

“The State Significant Development (SSD) process allows inappropriate proposals to bypass our carefully calibrated local planning frameworks. It jeopardises our World Heritage Area and our unique way of life,” said Mayor Mark Greenhill.

“The Blue Mountains Local Environment Plan limits development on the land between our towns and villages – in order to protect our unique City,” he said.

“Developments such as these set a precedent that could change the Blue Mountains forever.”

Current NSW planning legislation permits “zombie” development applications to proceed without an obligation to review against contemporary planning and environmental standards, or the views of the present community.

A 1989 DA for the wildlife park on the highway at Wentworth Falls was revived last year. The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment DPIE has notified Council that they have accepted that the new and larger proposal to that which is already approved, has SSD status.

It is understood the total capital investment value of this much larger proposal exceeds $100 million.

The land owner has indicated to DPIE that they are likely to act upon the existing consent until an SSD approval is granted. Apparently works may commence as soon as the end of this month. If such works are in accordance with the existing consent, Council does not have authority to prevent them from occurring.

Council is seeking regulatory reform of the NSW planning system, regarding the delayed implementation of development consents.

“Where there are undue delays in development, in this case some 30 years, development should be required to adhere to present planning standards and the community’s expectation for sustainable development,” Mayor Greenhill said.

“Everything else is unacceptable, particularly in our World Heritage listed Blue Mountains.

“Council staff hold concerns regarding a SSD process for this sensitive site as Council’s role is essentially reduced to being able to make a submission.”

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