Fears storage vote will cost jobs

There are fears a Wollongong City Council decision to allow self-storage units on all land zoned for heavy industry will have consequences for the region’s employment prospects.

On Tuesday night, councillors voted 6-5 to forward a planning proposal to the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure to include storage premises, including self-storage units, as a permissible use in IN3 Heavy Industrial zone areas.

At the heart of the marathon debate was the 2010 purchase of land in the Kemblawarra Industrial Precinct and Business Park by Kennards Self Storage.

Kennards paid $2.2 million for the 2.29hectare site and lodged an  application for a self-storage facility on the site in 2011, later withdrawn after Kennards discovered self-storage was prohibited in the heavy industry zone.

A subsequent rezoning request from Kennards led to the council’s planning proposal. 

Self-storage units were previously allowed under the Wollongong Local Environmental Plan 1990 in areas zoned for heavy industry under the definition of a ‘‘warehouse’’.

However, under the new LEP (which commenced in 2010), ‘‘warehouse’’ remains a permissible land use in the IN3 Heavy Industrial zone. However, the separately defined ‘‘self-storage units’’ are prohibited.

Cardno senior principal David Laing, who addressed Tuesday night’s meeting on behalf of a consortium of Kemblawarra industrial operators opposed to the proposal, said there was a deeper issue in the fact the planning proposal would reduce the amount of land available to heavy industry.

Mr Laing said allowing storage facilities on heavy industrial land could see potential employment-generating developments replaced with ones with little or no employment-generating ability.

‘‘This decision will drive up land prices ... and heavy industry is already feeling the squeeze.’’

However Wollongong City Council planners recommended the planning proposal proceed, given the history of self-storage premises in Wollongong and their role ‘‘as a residential and home business support service and small business incubator’’ among other things.

Council staff argued there was a low likelihood that self-storage units would cumulatively affect Wollongong’s heavy industrial land supply, and said there were three premises operating in heavy industrial areas in Unanderra.

 A motion from councillor Vicki Curran to reject the planning proposal was lost six votes to five, with councillors Martin, Takacs, Merrin, Bradbery and Curran voting to reject the changes and councillors Kershaw, Connor, Brown, Blicavs, Colacino and Crasnich in support. 

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