Council dumps Helensburgh rezoning plan

Plans to rezone land around Helensburgh to allow construction of more than 300 new homes have been shelved by Wollongong City Council after community opposition.The council's draft review of 7(d) land around Helensburgh, Otford and Stanwell Tops - prepared by consultants Willana Associates - attracted 3447 submissions last year.It recommended zoning changes that would have allowed up to 350 additional homes in areas previously not permitted for residential development.In a report to be tabled at tomorrow's council meeting, the council has prepared a summary of the feedback and a new discussion paper recommending just 31 additional dwelling entitlements.The report rules out residential development in key areas where the Willana report had proposed extensive new housing - Lady Carrington Estate (south) and the land pooling precinct.Residential development would also be off limits at Lloyd Place and North Otford, which have not held building entitlements for decades.The only new residential development proposed is for 11 additional dwellings in central Otford, which would be zoned E4 environmental living, and 20 new homes in the Wilsons Creek Precinct.Around 70 per cent of the former 7(d) Hacking River Environmental Protection land rezoned to E3 environmental management in the 2009 Wollongong local environmental plan would be rezoned to E2 environmental conservation.Neighbourhood Forum 1 convenor Pauline Smith has concerns about the latest council proposals and said there were no environmental studies to back it."They are still proposing big areas as E3 that should really be E2 and there are going to be a lot of objections to this," she said.She was also concerned that the report did not offer any "way out" for landowners who would never be able to build on their land.Residents were outraged when the council last year voted to give 7(d) land an interim E3 zoning in the Wollongong LEP, rather than the more restrictive E2 zone that was publicly exhibited.A community group is now challenging the interim E3 zones.The Mercury has obtained a copy of a planning proposal prepared by Otford Protection Society Inc and lodged with the Department of Planning earlier this month under its Gateway process.The comprehensive proposal was intended to use the same process that councils use to seek approval for rezonings and LEP modifications.The department confirmed it had received the planning proposal, but a spokeswoman told the Mercury the only body that could legally progress the preparation of a local environmental plan was the relevant planning authority - usually the local council, the department's director-general or a Joint Regional Planning Panel."The department is now looking to discuss the submission with both Wollongong City Council and the applicant," the spokeswoman said.