Council to look further into Skydive the Beach proposal

Wollongong  councillors have rejected a motion put forward by Cr Jill Merrin calling for a cost-benefit analysis of Skydive The Beach's plans for a new headquarters in Stuart Park.

Cr Merrin's motion expressing concern over the "privatisation" of Stuart Park was voted down at Monday night's council meeting.

Skydive the Beach lodged plans earlier this month to replace the business's current cottage at Stuart Park with a modern purpose-built administration block at the southern edge of the park near the Kembla Street and George Hanley Drive intersection.

The planned administration block would cover 400 square metres and include a reception and waiting area, a merchandise shop and coffee kiosk, as well as staff offices and parachute packing and storage space.

It would also have unisex public toilets, a deck and outdoor training area.

According to documents lodged with council, the relocation was necessary because of the council's plans to knock down the cottage to make way for future Blue Mile works.

Were the development to go ahead, the existing footpath and cycleway would need to be demolished and some trees on the western side of the site would need to be removed.

Cr Merrin's motion called for councillors to be provided with a briefing on the history of the proposal, the costs and benefits, including "the loss of green open space in Wollongong's most densely populated suburb" and why the project should not go to public tender.

She also called for a council review of the 2007 Blue Mile plan of management to consider the appropriate use and management of Stuart Park and that a hold be placed on currently proposed projects until the review was complete.

Cr Merrin said the proposed development had "raised a lot of angst".

"There is absolutely no reason we should be putting new buildings for a profit-making venture in a public park," she said.

Cr Merrin said she felt it should be sent out for public tender as there would be other businesses that would also like to use the site.

However, Cr David Brown said that council should support the activity of skydiving in Stuart Park as an appropriate use.

Cr Leigh Colacino also raised concerns that opposition to projects like this was sending out the message that Wollongong was closed for business.

"It's one thing to ask for information but it is another thing to put up countless obstacles for businesses to find a way through," Cr Colacino said.

He called Skydive the Beach a "success story" and said council should not be hindering its growth.

Cr Merrin said she was not opposed to the business of Skydive the Beach. However, she felt that the land should be used as green space.

After Cr Merrin's motion was defeated, a foreshadowed motion from David Brown was passed, which called on council to recognise skydiving as an appropriate activity for Stuart Park and in line with the council's Blue Mile plan.

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