Public hearings into Sutherland Shire's draft local environment plan (LEP) opened today with a warning by the independent panel that the process would be ‘‘difficult’’.
The state government appointed planning experts, Dr John Roseth and Meredith Sussex, to review the LEP after public anger over last-minute changes and allegations of favours being done to developers.
Dr Roseth began the first hearing at Sutherland Entertainment Centre by saying ‘‘the most difficult part of it is we are supposed to recommend whether certain provisions are appropriate for the LEP’’.
‘‘The word appropriate includes a large degree of value judgment,’’ he said.
‘‘What some people think is appropriate, others don't think is appropriate.
‘‘There is more than one appropriate answer to most problems.’’
Tim Stewart, a town planner representing a developer, supported changes made in the revised draft LEP to extend the Sutherland town centre to include a block bounded by Merton Street, President Avenue, Flora Street and Belmont Street.
Under the changes, buildings of 12-13 storeys in height would be allowed in the block, which has Sutherland Primary School on one side and St Patrick's Primary School on the other side.
Mr Stewart said he supported the council's draft LEP decisions for higher densities in centres.
‘‘I thought there was a clear vision that was being implemented that supported state government decisions to substantially increase densities in Sydney, and to do that close to transport, particularly heavy rail,’’ he said.
Mr Stewart said the fact that ‘‘Sutherland was open for business’’ had been well received by various business groups with which he had involvement.
He said that although densities around centres would be substantially higher, lower densities would be maintained in the suburbs.
Ronald Van Ardenne, of RVA Australia, defended the eco-tourism resort he wants to develop at Bundeena, but which has been opposed by nearby residents.
Mr Ardenne said the proposed resort, which would provide guests with tents equipped with ‘‘creature comforts’’ such as en-suites and good furniture, would have been permitted under the original draft LEP.
The revised plan had rezoned the area so that an eco-tourism resort would still be allowed but it would involve ‘‘a lot of red tape’’ which would make it unviable.
Mr Ardenne said he supported a compromise that the council was working on which would involve swapping his property for adjoining council-owned land where he could develop his resort.
Jannali resident James Maclachlan, a retired engineer, said he believed most shire residents did not share previous mayor Kent Johns's vision for the shire.
Mr Maclachlan said submissions to the original draft LEP opposed proposed building heights by a ratio of 23 to 1.
He said a proposed change around the nine-metre maximum building height in low density areas would ‘‘change the character’’ of the shire.
Mr Maclachlan opposed allowing four storey blocks of units at Jannali and the reclassification of Sutherland Entertainment Centre which he said would leave its future to be determined by market forces.
Two more public hearing sessions are scheduled for today and six more for next week.
See more in the Leader tomorrow.
Will you be speaking at one of the forums and, if so, what will you be saying?