Kembla Grange factory outlet developer blasts council

The developer behind a controversial proposal to rezone 18 hectares of industrial land at Kembla Grange to make way for a large retail precinct has hit out at Wollongong City Council staff, saying their reports on the plan are ‘‘severely deficient’’.

Sydney property giant Leda Holdings has long proposed to alter the Wyllie Road site’s ‘‘light industrial zone’’ to make way for a $110-million factory outlet and homewares complex, which it says will create thousands of jobs and keep millions of dollars of retail spending in the region.

The plan – dating back to 2005 – is set to be debated at Monday night’s meeting by Wollongong councillors, who rejected it twice in 2012.

Kembla Grange outlet debate reignites

A staff report to be considered at the meeting has revealed no change in their stance against the plans, which Leda director Robert Ell said was ‘‘completely frustrating, almost to the point of [being] misleading’’.

Staff have repeatedly maintained the best option for the site is to retain its existing zoning, saying any change could undermine other retail hubs such as Dapto and Unanderra, potentially causing job losses in these areas.

They also said the  existing industrial zone was needed, as the land was a ‘‘strategically important reserve’’ to support the growth in freight and other port-related industries.

However, Mr Ell said his company commissioned its own ‘‘external and unbiased’’ economic impact studies and a legal assessment of the council’s reports, which told a  different story to that of the council officers.

‘‘Our research has shown that the last report the council officers provided has major incorrect statements in it,’’ he said.

‘‘We then employed [Sydney law firm] Gadens to do a review of the council report, to point out the material errors and provided this to the council, and it was ignored.’’

He said Leda Holdings did not agree with the council’s views about the need for industrial land or potential job losses.

‘‘They keep falling back on industrial land supply and saying this site is imperative to industrial land supply in the Illawarra, and that’s – in my opinion – just rubbish,’’ he said.

‘‘There is no demand – or very little demand – for manufacturing in the Illawarra and there is not a shortage of industrial land.’’

Mr Ell said that the planned factory outlet was not designed to compete with traditional retail – such as grocery stores, cinemas or hairdressers –  in Dapto and Unanderra.

He said Leda’s studies had shown the centre would have a ‘‘negligible’’ impact on other retail centres and would draw in shoppers from outside Wollongong, bringing extra customers to nearby towns.

Councillors are set to debate the staff report at this week’s meeting.

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