Council addresses Gateway conflict fears

Wollongong City Council hopes to hand over planning responsibilities for the proposed Bass and Flinders Gateway complex on the former Quattro site to an independent assessor, amid conflict of interest concerns.

Councillors last night voted 10-2 to write to NSW Planning Minister Brad Hazzard asking him to allow the Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) to step in to assess a rezoning proposal for the Wollongong CBD site.

Bounded by Flinders, Keira and Campbell streets, the prime parcel of land was sold to Malaysian-Australian consortium Gateway Wollongong last year on the condition they develop a master plan for the site.

The council owns 10 of the 17 lots on the site, totalling about 9100 square metres, however, the development proposal would also include lots that remain privately owned.

According to a master plan released in June, Gateway hoped to build a complex of mixed-use buildings with 278 apartments and 385 parking spaces on the 14,681 square metre site.

However, this development would challenge existing height requirements and requires a change to the current ‘‘B6 enterprise corridor’’ zone of the block.

In July, the developers submitted a proposal to change the site to a mixed-use zone and have also requested an increase to the maximum building height and floor-space ratio on the site.

Normally, the council would have the authority to decide whether the proposal should be allowed to proceed through the NSW Planning process.

However, staff recommended councillors delegate this authority to the JRPP due to concerns about a possible conflict of interest if the council were to remain as the major landholder as well as the planning regulator.

Staff said there could be ‘‘reputational risks associated with the council being seen to create beneficial planning outcomes for its own land’’, as well as possible legal complications if the council remained the planning authority.

Labor councillor David Brown moved the motion, saying the council needed to show people “we are not regulating ourselves”.

Independent councillors Greg Petty and Vicki Curran voted against the recommendation, with Cr Petty saying he believed there needed to be more transparency around the council’s dealings with the site. He said he did not believe the zone should be changed after the block had been offered to developers through a contract of sale, as the new mixed-use zone and taller height restrictions could increase the value of the site.

An artist's impression of the Gateway development.

An artist's impression of the Gateway development.