Long experienced urban planner slams Heathcote Hall development as 'surreptitious spot rezoning'

Residents, who are engaged in a last-ditch fight to stop the Heathcote Hall development, have been supported by a submission describing the proposal as "clearly a surreptitious spot rezoning".

Long experienced Sutherland Shire urban planner Brian O'Dowd told Sydney South Planning Panel the proposal was contrary to the Department of Planning's "Local Character and Place Guidelines", issued in February 2019.

Mr O'Dowd said the proposal was also at odds with new Planning Minister Rob Stokes's statements he wants to phase out spot rezoning and protect neighbourhood character.

The proposed development includes restoration of the historic mansion, construction of 35 townhouses and 20 apartments in three-storey blocks and extensive landscaping.

Sutherland Shire Council has backed residents in calling for the determination meeting to be moved to a time when more can attend.

The panel announced the hearing would start at 2pm on August 21, leading to an outcry this was unfair as many residents would be at work.

The council's Strategic Planning Committee voted unanimously to request the time be changed to 6pm, and this has been communicated to the panel by council chief executive Manjeet Grewal.

A flyer distributed by Heathcote East residents lists alleged failures in the assessment process by the council and Rural Fire Service (RFS), who supported the proposal when it was considered, and deferred, by the planning panel in 2018.

The flyer claims RFS is "breaking its own rules" because Dillwynnia Grove, which separates Heathcote Hall from bushland, does not comply with the eight metre wide width required of "perimeter" roads in bushfire zone areas.

"By allowing this, it puts lives of this community and brave fire fighters at risk," the flyer claims.

"The appropriate decision is to refuse the development because of the non compliant road system or widen 500 metres of Dillwynnia Grove and remove heritage trees."

A RFS spokesman said the development proposal was assessed against the requirements of Planning for Bush Fire Protection 2006 and 2018, and was found to comply.

Consequently, RFS had issued a Bush Fire Safety Authority, the spokesman said.

The council was attacked in the flyer for stating E4 bushfire prone areas were not suitable for dual occupancy and duplex development, but was prepared to support the Heathcote Hall development.

A council spokeswoman said, "Townhouse development is permissible on the site under NSW heritage provisions".

"The floor space ratio of the proposed development is approximately 18 per cent under the maximum allowed for residential properties in the Heathcote East E4 zone," she said.

The council rejected the claim there was no detailed analysis of LEP rule regarding "significant adverse effect on the amenity of the surrounding area".

"The assessment report prepared for the original proposal, and the report being prepared for the revised proposal, address impacts on the amenity of the area in significant detail," the spokeswoman said.

"The report on the revised proposal will be published by the Sydney South Planning Panel secretariat in advance of the upcoming meeting."

The council also denied it had effectively approved the proposal at a pre-DA meeting with the developer in 2015), by stating "a three-storey development would be considered and appropriate outcome".

"Council's pre-application discussion service assists applicants in identifying issues that require attention in the preparation of a development application," the spokeswoman said.

"It is not an approval process.

"Council was not supportive of the Pre-DA scheme, as the scale and intensity of the proposed development was substantially greater than the current scheme."