UPDATE – Examiner 18 March 2016: Joint Regional Planning Panel rejects Soldiers Point Marina plan
The decision of the NSW Joint Regional Planning Panel to refuse the application by Clippers Anchorage to expand the existing 100 berth Soldiers Point Marina by 58 further berths was a major win for the 1200 Soldiers Point ratepayers who made submissions opposing this development and congratulations are in order.
The Soldiers Point Community Group, formed to oppose this project by Sunset Boulevard resident Colin Howard (Now TRRA Vice President) was assisted by TRRA Committee members in making submissions and organising the local population to attend regular briefings and mobilising their resources in a major effort to prevent the overdevelopment of the beautiful environment that they live in, for themselves and future generations.
This culminated in over two hours of passionate representations by about 16 speakers to address the JRPP in support of environmentalists, the Worimi people, oyster farmers and others who opposed this application.
The Council’s role in this matter has been pretty ordinary. There have been compliance issues around this facility since 1998. There is an issue with access to the Marina across a public reserve that is still outstanding. A part of the Marina business has been conducted using this access via the public reserve with seemingly no payment for the use of this land. Over the years, the public have been covertly discouraged from using the foreshore walkway due to vehicle movement and lack of signage. The reclassification of this section of land, which could effectively legitimise the current use, is set for a hearing on 3rd July. We have made a submission HERE and will report on the outcome.
Parking in the area has always been a major problem that has never been adequately addressed over the years and has been exacerbated by the introduction of restaurants in the building, expansion of the Sailing Club, users of the tennis courts and Community Hall in the area and the overflow in busy periods from the Council Caravan Park. Nobody seems to have actually surveyed the parking area properly which includes a waste bin facility, but it appears that the Marina alone is about 33 spaces short currently, without the expansion and the other traffic is not catered for at all. The Council’s role in trying to assist the proponent to get over the line initially by offering a slice of the nearby public Spencer Park was met with furious opposition from the locals and the dodgy ‘valet parking’ proposal was never going to be a practical solution.
The proponent submitted documentation that when he purchased the Marina in 2000 the Council raised no parking or compliance issues and since then the situation has only got worse with everyone just hoping it would all go away instead of addressing the compliance issues and fixing them. The massive backlash from long suffering residents in the area with cars parking all over their front lawns and driveways for years with their complaints being consistently ignored should not be too surprising, this proposal was the last straw and the catalyst for the people to unite on a common issue.
The process has been long winded. There were 3 rounds of public exhibition over 3 years, and has had to traverse some turnover in Council planning staff. At one stage the proponent was advised by staff that a SIS (species Impact Statement) would not be required, yet the Council’s decision to recommend to the JRPP that the application be refused, was that, amongst other requirements, the proponent has not provided an SIS. This may not be the end of the matter; the proponent has the right to take action in the Land and Environment Court or even start again with a fresh application, however the environmental and compliance obstacles emerging from this application will now have to be addressed and will be difficult to overcome, before even a less ambitious expansion could be considered
Transparency, Access To Information
Another facet of this exercise has been the Council’s lack of transparency and blatant obstruction to community access to proper information regarding this and other major development applications. The constant obfuscation by Council using obtuse arguments about copyright documents and misleading descriptions has been an ongoing running battle with TRRA for years. This will be the subject of another major story we will be running on this site in the near future, but the significance of a breakthrough that was achieved in this particular matter should not be underestimated. Action taken with the assistance of the EDO (Environmental Defenders Office) in preparing an extensive GIPA freedom of information application, resulted in the Committee opposing this DA getting unprecedented access to not only the full documentation of the DA but also all the supporting correspondence related emails etc. The files were so extensive that they could not be sent electronically and were provided on a number of CDs to avoid printing costs. The proper release of this information to the public had a major impact on this case.
The lessons to be learned from this campaign are there for all.
A well organised campaign of residents, who had been ignored by their representatives and were united in a common cause by a small dedicated Committee, has achieved a major victory by creating pressure on a Council that has turned a blind eye to major compliance issues for many years, that have now come home to roost.
A proponent that must have been aware of those issues having got away with it for such a long time, tried to take advantage of the Council’s perceived lax attitude to compliance by pushing the envelope a bit too far, and has come undone.
This is a breakthrough that TRRA should analyse for future use in forcing Council transparency and gaining the proper access to information on development applications.
Congratulations to all involved for a job well done, hopefully this beautiful area now won’t be overdeveloped and the Oyster farmers and the Bush Stone Curlew may survive.
Previous posts and submissions HERE
These are links the Examiner coverage of the issue so far:
For the final update and result go to http://www.portstephensexaminer.com.au/story/2348250/breaking-news-soldiers-point-marina-expansion-refused/?cs=761