Joint Regional Planning Panel blocks rezoning of green link site at 505 Minmi Road Fletcher

VICTORY: Conservationists Brian Purdue, David Horkan and Sharon Healey at the site in October. They have reacted with relief after authorities blocked the rezoning of environmentally sensitive land at Fletcher. Picture: Marina NeilPLANNING AUTHORITIES have quashed an attempt to revive acontroversialrezoning plan for an environmentally sensitive parcel of land on the city’s outskirts.
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In a three-to-one verdict, the Joint Regional Planning Panel ruledthe proposal, for505 Minmi Road at Fletcher, should not progress to the next stage of the approval process. They found the rezoning would havestrategic– but not site specific –merit.

Thedecision has been met with relief from environmental activists, who have waged a decade-long battle to protect the site.

Green Corridor Coalition spokesperson Brian Purdue said the ruling showed environmental interests could prevail, despite the developer investing at least$20,000 in the latest incarnation of the proposal.

“I thought the planning system was totally broken, but maybe it’s not,” he said.

But land owner Peter Durbin, who purchased the block 15 years ago, denied the verdict represented the end of the road for the plan.

“We just need to finesse or amend the current proposal so it’s acceptable,” he said.

“It’s just another step in a very long process, but we’ll certainly continue to pursue it.”

Spanning 26 hectares, a subdivision on the sitewould yield between 100 and 110 lots. However opponentsargue it is critical link to the Lower Hunter’sgreen corridor project, a continuous strip of nativevegetation stretching from the Watagans to Stockton.

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Battle lines drawn as rezoning plan returnsLand could combatcrisisWar of words over ‘surprise’ rezoning tiltLast year, Newcastle councillorsruled against the rezoningproposal for a second time, refusing to allow it to proceed to the state’sgateway determination process.

The decision was challenged by Mr Durbin, who asked for a review by the Joint Regional Planning Panel.

Two panel members were receptive topockets of low-density residential development on the site.

However it was agreed the potentialbenefits wereoutweighed by concernsthe layout would pose a risk to indigenous heritage andhigh-value ecological areas.

All panel members were of the view the developer’senvironmental assessments should be updated, given the length of time since they were prepared.

One panel member suggested the footprint of the subdivision should be reduced by between 30 and 50 per cent.

Mr Durbinwouldn’t be drawn on whether such a reduction would make the project nonviable.

“We’re currently working through what we need to do to amend the applicationso we can meet their requirements,” he said.

“We haven’t formed a view on what it would be. It could be that the development is located in slightly different parts of the site, it could be different lot sizes, it could be a range of different things.”

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