Planning panel urged to heed fire risk fears

Fire risk: Engineer Phil Targett says planning authorities must learn from the Victorian fires which killed 173 residents before approving the Heathcote Hall DA. Picture: Supplied
Fire risk: Engineer Phil Targett says planning authorities must learn from the Victorian fires which killed 173 residents before approving the Heathcote Hall DA. Picture: Supplied

In early 2019 the State Government-appointed Sydney South Planning Panel will make a determination regarding the Heathcote Hall DA that could have a devastating impact on our tiny but vocal community in East Heathcote.

From the outset there have been secret meetings with one cabinet minister failing to record a meeting with developers in his electronic diary. When caught out by the Leader he was forced to amend his records.

The Mayor and Heathcote MP have failed to adequately answer questions on how this development can be justified. They have gone into ‘no comment’ mode to the community who elected them.

The shire’s oldest suburb, contained within three boundaries of the Royal National Park, zoned E4 (single dwellings) does not need two five-level sets of flats (two underground) and townhouses totalling 55 apartments in our tiny suburb.

A state government-sponsored heritage loophole, supported by Sutherland Shire Council, allows this monstrosity to raise its towering head in our tranquil setting with just a single entry over a tiny bridge. It is a massive bushfire risk and is rightfully designated ‘bush fire prone’.

There are similarities with bush fire areas such as Como, Grays Point, Engadine, and the more distant Tathra, Canberra, Blue Mountains and the Kinglake disaster in Victoria when 173 lives were lost.

We deserve transparent decision making regarding this DA from the Council, NSW RFS and the SSPP.

Sadly, at present, politics lacks trust, integrity and professional decision-making and the voters have responded clearly on the relationship between developers and politicians in other places.

The Premier must respond to our request for an inquiry into allegations of inappropriate relations between the Heathcote Hall development and local politicians.

Phil Targett, Save Heathcote East

It is not just precious heritage trees that will be lost in the Heathcote Hall DA (“Heritage Protection Lost”, Leader, January 2).

On December 21 a semi trailer was inexplicably exiting McDonald’s and could not make the turn onto the tiny bridge into our suburb. It got stuck, there was an oil spill, the fire brigade were needed and police tried to control the ensuing traffic chaos.

People could not get in or out without enormous difficulty and delays. If there was another bushfire and a vehicle broke down on our tiny bridge fire trucks could not get in, ambulances evacuating the John Paul Retirement Village would be at a standstill and cars backed up into the settlement. And what about the kids at the school?

It appears as though the State Government-appointed Sydney South Planning Panel (SSPP), in its first deliberations on this overdevelopment, have not taken residents’ worries into consideration. How can they ignore the fact that following the Kinglake Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, following the loss of 173 lives in the catastrophic 2009 fires, it recommended planners should “.. adopt a clear objective of substantially restricting development in the areas of highest bushfire risk ...”

If the SSPP allows two sets of towering flats and 55 apartments in this isolated E4 bushfire-prone area, with a single road access surrounded by 15,000 hectares of Royal National Park, then questions need to be asked about how this State Government body operates and who it is answerable to.

The SSPP has one more chance to make a sensible decision for this community. Let’s hope the decision does not one day end in the Coroner’s Court.

Phil Smith