The blueprint for the Far North Coasts land use over the next 25 years has sparked fears it could promote Gold Coast-style high-rise development in the region.
NSW Planning Minister Frank Sartor last week unveiled the final Far North Coast Regional Strategy which aims to cater for an extra 60,400 residents and 51,000 homes by 2031 in the local government areas of Ballina, Lismore, Richmond Valley, Kyogle, Byron Bay and Tweed.
Mr Sartor said the 25-year strategy, to be reviewed every five years, would guard against inappropriate development along this sensitive coastal strip.
It locks in important green breaks between towns and villages from Tweed Heads to Evans Head to limit sprawl and high-rise development along the coastline, he said.
But Ballina MP Don Page and John Bailey, the Greens candidate for Ballina in the upcoming March election, disagree.
Mr Page said the Northern Rivers could soon be overshadowed by a Gold Coast-style skyline under the strategy which he claimed contained a loophole opening the door to high-rise development in Ballina and Lismore.
He said the strategy gives Lismore, Ballina and Tweed councils the power to review building height restrictions within their central business districts. Currently they cant change building height restrictions without state government approval.
Not only has the State Labor Government taken over the approval process for major coastal developments, now they are telling councils to review their building height limits and spruiking the benefits of high-rise, Mr Page said.
Mr Bailey said the section which dealt with the overshadowing of beaches by high-rise buildings made chilling reading, particularly where it states: Local Environmental Plans will set building heights in urban areas that reflect the landscape character, function and hierarchy of the future settlement and visual and cultural amenity of its location.
This seems to leave the way open for Gold Coast type development on our beaches, where sun bathers have to huddle in cracks of light allowed between buildings, Mr Bailey said.
Given Mr Sartors willingness to over-ride local councils on development applications, this is very worrying indeed the Northern Rivers community does not want buildings overshadowing beaches or open land, Mr Bailey said.
But a spokesman for the Department of Planning this week rejected the claims, saying the strategy incorporated existing provisions from the NSW Coastal Policy to stop Gold Coast-style development which caused early afternoon overshadowing of beaches or adjoining open space.
The spokesman said the department would work with local councils to examine building heights inexisting centres and include community input.
The strategy allows for 35 per cent of of future housing to be locatedin the regional centres of Ballina, Lismore and Tweed Heads while land release for new housing in the coastal area (east of the Pacific Highway) has been limited to 60 per cent down from the previously proposed 75 per cent.
The strategy also prevents development in places constrained by coastal processes such as dune erosion, flooding, wetlands, important farmland, and landscapes of high scenic and conservation value.
Around 2500 people a year are set to settle in the region, which is expected to grow more than 26 per cent to 289,000 people in the next 25 years.
The strategy also aims to support 32,500 extra jobs in that period by ensuring a sufficient supply of land to generate employment.
Mr Sartor said investment and employment growth would be encouraged for inland towns and centres such as Lismore, Casino and Kyogle, with 232 hectares of employment land to be unlocked to take advantage of looming industrial land shortages in south-east Queensland. However the strategy does not identify exactly where this new employment land will be situated.
He said a draft Far North Coast Regional Conservation Plan would also soon be released for public comment.
A fact sheet on the strategy is available at www.planning.nsw.gov.au/plansforaction/northcoast.asp.
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