Port Stephens Council Tree Management
As you are aware, TRRA, EcoNetwork Port Stephens and many other environment groups in Port Stephens have had serious concerns for a long time about Council’s tree management policy and related compliance monitoring and enforcement.
We briefly discussed these issues in our Zoom meeting with you on 8 September and promised to follow up with our concerns in writing. This letter does so, and we would welcome the opportunity to further discuss our ongoing concerns which relate to clearing on both private and public land.
The letter details our overall concerns, while the Attachment contains 3 case studies of recent clearing on public land.
Full Text – Click Here
Proposed ‘housekeeping’ amendments to the Port Stephens Local Environmental
Plan 2013 (LEP)
We note that only 10 of the 13 proposed amendments were initially listed in the summary of the changes on thewebsite – this has subsequently been rectified.
It is also disappointing that the material on exhibition does not include a ‘tracked changes’ version of the LEP clearlyshowing all the proposed changes. This omission makes it very difficult for the public to fully understand theproposal and consider the implications of the changes.
As indicated on the website, most of the proposed amendments are of a technical nature designed to address minoradministrative matters, and are uncontroversial.
There are however a few amendments that have more substantive effect and on which we make the followingcomments.
Full Text – Click Here
We have no objection to this submission being made public in full and unredacted.
TRRA submission on Port Stephens Council Draft Integrated Plans
We note that these plans have been prepared in some cases prior or during the early stages of the Covid-19 outbreak. As a consequence, some changes are likely over the course of the next month and ongoing for the remainder of the 2020-21 financial year as more information comes to hand.
TRRA request that, in general, any significant changes be presented before Council prior to implementation to ensure transparency.
Draft Fees and Charges 2020 to 2021
Draft Workforce Plan 2018-2021
Strategic Asset Management Plan 2020 – 2030 (SAMP10)
Comments on specific items in the SAMP
Comments in specific items in the SAMP Attachment 2: Capital Works Program 2020-2030
Comments in specific items in the SAMP Attachment 3: Capital Works Plan Plus
Draft Delivery Program and Operational Plan 2018 to 2021
Draft Long Term Financial Plan 2020-2030
Click Here for full submission.
DA Updates 01/04/2020
Height Limits in Nelson Bay Town Centre
The Dept of Planning has placed multiple conditions on Council in progressing its proposal to increase height limits in Nelson Bay Town Centre, and to make other changes to the planning controls. Council will be required to undertake a lot more work to justify the proposal and address the concerns that TRRA and others raised and have been given 18 months to do so. Formal exhibition of the LEP and DCP changes is now unlikely before late 2021, after Council elections, so this can be an election issue. Further details are in Attachment 1.
DA for Harvey Norman store, servo, fast food outlet and 22 industrial sites at Taylors Beach – on semi-cleared site next to Shearwater Industrial Park. TRRA objected to the design/layout of this proposal on the basis that it would remove koala habitat, affect low lying wetland and be visually intrusive with a major retaining wall across much of the frontage to Pt Stephens Drive. We submitted that it should be possible to design this $25million development more sensitively to better respect the land-forms and remaining native vegetation and reduce the impact on native wildlife.
Draft Local Strategic Planning Statement – TRRA has generally supported this important overall land-use and transport planning framework, but has argued for a greater emphasis on ecologically sustainable development, particularly on the Tomaree peninsula where the natural environment and local character are vital for both residential amenity and the tourist economy.
Draft Housing Strategy ‘Live Port Stephens’ – TRRA has made a detailed submission on this Strategy which will determine the amount and type of housing to be developed in the different localities within Port Stephens between now and 2040. We have challenged the supply and demand forecasts for Tomaree which are used to justify a proposed relaxation of planning controls in suburban areas of Nelson Bay, Corlette and Shoal Bay (including higher buildings and reduced setbacks). We argue that a ‘natural’ process of downsizing, subdivision and higher density low rise housing should more than cater for likely or desirable population growth on the peninsula. We agree it is important to address affordability and diversity but many of the levers are in the hands of State and Federal governments. Port Stephens Council should place a higher priority on protection of the natural environment including habitat of threatened species, and of local character.
Public notice of DAs – DCP Amendment – TRRA objected to the deletion of a detailed section of the DCP specifying the public notice requirements for different types of development. It is to be replaced with a much looser and discretionary provisions in a community participation plan which also carries less weight than the DCP. This is one of several recent changes which in our view reduce transparency and accountability.
Rezoning request policy – TRRA objected in December 2019 to a new policy that gives much more discretion to Council planners to progress planning proposals without bringing them to Council first. While all major planning proposals will eventually have to be put on public exhibition, the opportunity for Councillors and the community to review and influence controversial major developments will be much reduced. Regrettably Council dismissed our concerns and adopted this new policy at its 25 February meeting.
Nelson Bay height limits – an update
The Dept of Planning has issued its long awaited ‘Gateway Determination’ on PS Council’s Planning Proposal to amend the PS LEP 2013 to implement the Nelson Bay Town Centre ‘Delivery Program’ adopted by Council in September 2018. Council submitted the Proposal in April 2019 – the Determination is dated 17 March 2020. These processes work slowly!
The proposal involves changes to the height controls (major increases) and new controls on Floor Space ratios (FSR) and on activated and minimum street frontages. The LEP has to be changed to make these new/amended controls ‘official’ although Council has already approved two DAs for major apartment buildings in the town centre that are double the current height limit.
TRRA made detailed submissions to the Dept of Planning about what we saw as the shortcomings and procedural failures in the Review of the Nelson Bay Strategy. We are pleased that the Dept appears to have recognised many of these weaknesses, and is now requiring Council to undertake substantial new work to support the proposal before it will be permitted to go on Exhibition, and has given an 18 month period in light of the amount of work required. This means that we are unlikely to see LEP amendments on exhibition much before mid 2021. As Council elections have been deferred due to the pandemic, this is likely to mean that it will be a new Council that finally decides if these changes go ahead unchanged.
We particularly welcome the following conditions: Council will need to:
- submit a comprehensive ‘Urban design analysis’ that justifies the changes, includes a visual impact analysis, and demonstrates how the proposals will meet various requirements, most of which confirm that the Dept is sceptical about how well the proposal does so. They appear particularly critical of the lack of information about the effect of higher buildings on views, local character, overshadowing etc. (our main concerns)
- advertise related changes to the DCP alongside the LEP amendments
- make public a summary of community consultation to date
On the downside, the Determination confirms Council as the plan-making authority for these LEP changes once all the conditions are satisfied – that means it will be our Councillors, rather than an independent panel, that makes the final decision. Also, no public hearing required (but it will have to come back to a Council meeting at which anyone can request ‘public access’).
We are also disappointed that the Determination has declined to accept our threshold argument that the Delivery Program height limit changes are fundamentally inconsistent with the objectives of the Strategy, and has also assessed the Proposal as consistent with State and Local planning instruments in a number of other respects which we had challenged.
The Report does not comment on the fact that two DAs for apartment buildings twice the current height limit have been approved in the last 4 years but neither has gone ahead, somewhat undermining Council’s main argument that increased heights is necessary to attract new developments. This will be one of our main submissions in due course.
Overall, this is very good news for those of us who believe Council’s obsession with increased heights is misguided and against the public interest. It is not yet a ‘done deal’.
 In full, the Progressing the Nelson Bay Town Centre and Foreshore Strategy – a revised Implementation and Delivery Program.
 As well as the Conditions it has imposed, the Dept also issued a 27 page report detailing a number of ways in which the current Proposal was not considered adequate. See http://leptracking.planning.nsw.gov.au/proposaldetails.php?rid=6069
DA Updates 10/2/20
Harvey Norman, Taylor’s Beach. The period for submissions has closed. TRRA was not opposed to some development of this land but considered that it should be more sensitive, including with regard to preserving koala habitat. Members will need to make their views known when the matter comes back to Council.
Lure Apartments, Nelson Bay. The proposal, to convert two-thirds of the apartments in this complex from short-term letting to permanent occupancy, reconfiguring the layout and size of the units (from 58 down to 33 units) was being assessed. In principle, conversion to permanent occupancy should be supported.
Sand Resort, Anna Bay. The DA has been withdrawn.
One member expressed concern that the steep land behind the new childcare centre would be subject to collapse following removal of the trees there. Tree removal was done with approval
Planning update for February 2020
Harvey Norman Taylors Beach DA
The proposed $25.8M Harvey Norman development at 60 Port Stephens Drive Taylors Beach, although welcome by many in the community, raises several environmental concerns. TRRA made a submission questioning the scale of the development which will require extensive earth works and a steep retaining wall facing Port Stephens Drive of approximately 5 to 7m in height along the entire length of the development. A small section of the development is zoned E3 which will be protected however there are approximately 28 koala trees marked for removal.
TRRA believes that following the devastating bush fires over recent months and the history of removal of koala habit across Port Stephens over the past 10 years we cannot afford to remove any more trees. A small reduction in the number of proposed lots from the original planned 22 and a slight increase in the buffer zone along the western side of the development would reduce the extent of earthworks and a significant saving of important koala habitat that is listed as preferred or buffer within the Port Stephens Koala Management Plan.
The increase in traffic that will eventually be generated by the development raises concerns about the already unsafe koala crossing through the existing east/west corridor on the southern boundary of the proposed development along with night lighting. The Wallum Froglet, Southern Myotis and the Squirrel Glider will also be affected.
Latitude One Development
A planning proposal to effectively spot rezone land adjacent to the existing approved 270 lot development to allow another 170 lots on rural zoned land was approved by Councillors on the 10th December to forward to the Department Planning. TRRA wrote to Councillors prior to the council meeting objecting to the process and subsequently to the Department regarding Council’s approval. We have been informed by the Department that they have undertaken an adequacy review and found a number of matters requiring further clarification. The Department and TRRA awaits Council’s response.
21 Fullerton Cove
A similar proposal at the Seniors Living ‘Lifestyle Village’ at 21 Fullerton Cove to develop another 124 lots on rural flood prone land. The developer argued that it was ‘substantially the same development’ but TRRA has questioned this on a number of grounds, particularly when the proposal is to increase the average lot size from 80 m2 to at least 220 m2.
Soldiers Point Marina
The approval of the proposed expansion of the marina at Soldiers Point has been placed on hold with the Planning, Industry & Environment Department requesting more studies on Aboriginal assessment and consultation.
2 Bagnall Ave Soldiers Point
The proposed Council 8 townhouse development at 2 Bagnall Ave has progressed to the stage of Council calling for tenders for their construction. The local community and TRRA have opposed this overdevelopment of the site prior to Council approving the DA in April 2018.
2 Jessie Rd Anna Bay
The DA for the Irukandji Shark & Ray Centre for a tourist facility and marine conservation centre to relocate to the previous Council owned site at 2 Jessie Rd Anna Bay was approved on the 24/12/2019. Construction has already commenced with the urgent requirement for the centre to move out of their existing facility.
31/31A Leonard Ave, Shoal Bay
The proposal to build a 10-dwelling residential flat building at 31 Leonard Ave Shoal Bay in 2016 has generated strong local community opposition and TRRA have made a number of submissions objecting to the development which has undergone a range of modifications over the years. Council finally approved 5 townhouses for the site, although consent is conditional on the developer gaining permission from neighbours for a drainage easement which they have not been able to negotiate to date.
Planning update for November 2019
Since the AGM in October, TRRA has made detailed submissions on a number of major development projects and other Council initiatives. Full details are on our website, but here is a brief summary:
Shark & Ray Centre, Anna Bay – the operators of this tourist attraction, currently located in Marsh Road at Bobs Farm, have bought the former Anna Bay oval at Jessie Rd (off Nelson Bay Road at the Pt Stephens Drive roundabout) and submitted a DA for a major new tourist facility also caring for and researching marine wildlife. TRRA have been supportive of this as an appropriate use for the site, but has urged the owners to work with Council to maintain the transport interchange function of the current car park. The project now seems likely to start with a small first stage leaving the car park available for community use at least in the medium term.
Optus phone masts, Nelson Bay – a proposal to put masts in a 5 metre high box on top of 9 Church St (the 5 storey apartment building just north of the ‘crane’ site. Unfortunately, while Optus have to accept and report on submissions, they can erect this facility without external approval. TRRA has called on them to look again at other sites which we think would be less intrusive.
Sand Resort, Anna Bay – a proposal for a luxury resort, with 247 units, on Gan Gan Road adjacent to the existing ‘failed’ resort development that has been an eyesore for many years. TRRA strongly opposed the new DA on multiple grounds, as did a large number of Anna Bay residents and other community groups. This project will be assessed by Council but decided by a State Planning Panel, which will hopefully refuse it. There should be a public hearing at which objectors can voice their concerns.
Sand Mine, Anna Bay – a proposal to increase the extraction of sand from 4226 Nelson Bay Road (behind the Baylife Church just west of the Pt Stephens Drive roundabout). Some sand needs to be removed to keep the power line easement clear, but TRRA has opposed what appears to be a significant commercial operation that goes well beyond the asset protection requirement. The major concern is the addition of yet more heavy sand truck movements to already overloaded roads west of the site.
Seniors Living ‘Lifestyle Villages’ – The Sunrise and Latitude One (example below) developments, at Bobs Farm and Anna Bay respectively, are now well under way and Council has just endorsed a planning proposal that may add a further 170 units to the Latitude One Estate. While the villages seem popular, the prices and ongoing fees mean they can hardly be considered ‘affordable’ housing, and they are now being built on site as permanent structures rather than the relocatable units, manufactured off site that was the basis of their approvals. TRRA thinks there are some serious questions to be answered about how this style of housing development has been allowed to take place on land zoned rural.
TRRA DA Watch April 2019 – Updates Include: Apart from our major submission objecting to the proposed tower block at 1 Yacaaba St, Nelson Bay Click we have been following a number of other development proposals. The next two stages of the ‘Eden at Wanda.Beach’. The Nelson Bay Public Domain Plan. Derelict development site on Gan Gan Road. Sale or lease of the Anna Bay Oval. Proposed extension of the Soldiers Point Marina building
TRRA DA Watch January 2019 – Updates Include: New residential villages , More Koala habitat under threat at One Mile Beach ,TRRA welcomes Council infrastructure works at Mambo Wetlands/Foreshore Drive, Objections to DAs for: Seamist Ave & Sunrise Modification