When Lennox Head Chamber of Commerce president Louise Owen discovered the scale of proposed new land developments in the Ballina Shire, she was so shocked she created a map to illustrate just how big they were.
"It is the biggest rezoning that has ever occurred in the Ballina Shire and will explode our population by more than double in a very short space of time," Louise said. "When people see the map (printed page 3), they get scared about what the developments could mean for the local area."
The two new potential urban developments, called Cumbalum Precinct A and Cumbalum Precinct B, were proposed by the NSW Government as a future vision for Ballina Shire and have been on public display since November last year. Louise claimed the combined developments cover an area of land larger than the current area of developed land in the whole of the shire.
Louise believes the impact of the proposed developments will not only mean an increase in population, but in the infrastructure needed to support large-scale urbanisation and new housing. She is concerned about the lack of public information about the new proposals and how much pressure the developments will put on the Lennox Head community.
"I want to know what the population increase will be as a result of this," Louise said. "I keep receiving information with widely varying projected population figures, from 5000 to 10,000."
Louise is concerned the developments will turn Lennox Head into another Gold Coast and wants to see more thought given to the extent
and types of development that should be allowed in the Ballina Shire.
"These developments will be devastating for locals who chose to come and live here for the lifestyle," Louise said. "Lennox is the closest beach to the developments and I want to know how this will impact on road and parking infrastructure in Lennox Head. Are we going on the same unsustainable path as shires around us such as Byron Bay where you can't even drive your car through town?
"Development is inevitable, no-one can dispute that, but we need to carefully think about what type of development we want in this area. We don't want to lose the feel of this area by replacing it with the two extremes of brick-and-tile developments like those in the western suburbs of Sydney, or high-rise apartments like on the Gold Coast. We need to keep our developments consistent with our lifestyle and what is unique about the place."
Louise also wants Council to address environmental and pollution issues relating to construction.
"Are Council and the developers prepared to pay for the pollution that will be caused through increased traffic and water pollution?" Louise asked. "What about the waste generated in construction?"
A public meeting will be held on Saturday, March 10, at 10am at the Lennox Head Community Centre, where Ballina Council will present information about the proposed two new townships. Louise encourages all Ballina Shire residents to attend the meeting, ask questions and make sure their voices are heard by Council.
Ballina Shire Mayor Phil Silver has his own concerns about the proposals.
Last year, Ballina Shire Council received letters from the Department of Planning pressuring Council to put the planning proposals on exhibition, despite Council's concerns that the amount of land in the proposed development was "way in excess of demand".
"Council is not planning for these developments to happen," Mayor Silver said. "While we resolved to exhibit the development applications, people should not assume there will be any zoning changes."
Mayor Silver is particularly concerned about the Cumbalum Precinct B proposal, which is situated to the north of the shire, saying it will strain Council's ability to extend adequate infrastructure, such as sewage, to any mini-subdivisions that might be built in those areas.
"We would prefer a more gradual urban development from the south and north of the shire," Mayor Silver said. "If zone changes occur, we would have a liability to provide infrastructure across the precinct, costing Council tens of millions of dollars, and it's highly possible an upgrade of the highway interchange may also be needed."
Mayor Silver believes Ballina already has enough planned zones for development to meet current demands.
"Council has always had good long-term strategic planning," he said. "I'm concerned the state planning authorities are spreading the development over too big an area. This development is about the longer term... in 40 years time, we might need this."
Public submissions for the Cumbalum Precincts have closed and Mayor Silver said a report will be prepared for the Department of Planning, based on submissions already made to Council. He said the department was likely to act on Council's recommendations.
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