The long-awaited legal battle over the controversial $3 billion Calderwood development began in the humble surrounds of the Albion Park Showground car park yesterday.
Land and Environment Court commissioners Tim Moore and Susan O’Neil travelled to the Illawarra to hear firsthand from supporters and objectors to developer Lend Lease’s bid to have the first part of its planned 4800-lot subdivision approved for development.
Stage one includes 231 residential lots and 120 medium-density dwellings.
The NSW Planning Assessment Commission rejected the proposal in April last year, prompting Lend Lease to challenge the matter in court.
Albion Park man Stuart Alexander told the court hearing, which took place under trees at the rear of the Albion Park Courthouse, that he believed too few residents knew about the proposal and there had been a lack of proper consultation with the public.
‘‘Seventy, eighty, ninety per cent of people I talk to know little if anything about it and they are local residents,’’ he said.
‘‘There’s been a total lack of public consultation. I think Lend Lease owe the public more if they’re fair dinkum about doing this.’’
Illawarra developer Neville Fredericks said the Illawarra Regional Strategy clearly stated West Dapto should be developed before Calderwood and the latter should only start ahead of time if housing demand spiked, which he said had not happened.
Mr Fredericks also raised concerns over the apparent disparity between the dollar value of the mandatory developer contributions for each site, saying West Dapto developers had to fork out $39,000 a lot, while to his knowledge, Lend Lease only had to pay $7000 a lot.
‘‘That represents a $30,000-odd advantage per lot [for Lend Lease] over [developers at] West Dapto,’’ he said.
‘‘That could lead to a collapse in the competitiveness of the West Dapto development.’’
He said such a prognosis was bad news for Wollongong City Council, which had already put tens of millions of dollars into building new infrastructure at West Dapto.
However, Tongarra resident and Illawarra Christian School board member Gavin Lowcock said the Calderwood development would bring better internet service and town water to the area and poor roadways would be upgraded.
‘‘The school gets a lot of traffic at certain times of the day ... [but] the roads to the school are inadequate,’’ he said.
‘‘We’ve banned the kids from riding their bikes to school from a safety perspective.’’
Albion Park father Stephen Carbonara also spoke in favour of Lend Lease’s plans, believing Calderwood offered a ‘‘fantastic opportunity’’ for young families such as his own to enter the property market.
Once public submissions finished commissioners Moore and O’Neil toured the Calderwood site along with lawyers representing Lend Lease, the NSW Planning Minister and Wollongong and Shellharbour councils.
The hearing will continue in Sydney today and is expected to finish tomorrow.