Developers to take Wollongong council to court over high-rise

A decision to knock back a multi-level apartment building and childcare centre on Atchison Street has landed Wollongong City Council in a legal battle.

Developers say they have been “left with no choice” but to proceed with a case in the Land and Environment Court after the region’s planning authority voted unanimously to refuse their $22 million plans.

The Southern Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) met in Wollongong on Friday and delivered a scathing assessment of developer Affinity Property Investment’s proposal for a 50-flat building.

Spokesman for the developer Mark Pigram, of Iconic Consultants, said the council and JRPP had “left us with no other choice” but to take their case to court.

Mr Pigram said the council had “made it seem like it was the applicant that wasn’t playing ball” during the assessment process, but said he believed the developer had been forced to chase the council over delays in approving the building.

He also said the developers had made changes to their design at the insistence of the council’s design review panel, believing that this would allow their plans to be approved.

Mr Pigram had hoped the JRPP would have voted to defer the plans to allow for further negotiations.

But JRPP member Alison McCabe  said the development had “fundamental issues” mostly because it had failed to address concerns about flooding in the precinct.

The council classifies the site as being in a “medium flood risk precinct”, which means certain studies must be undertaken and considered within the building design.

Additionally, the applications had pitched a development which far exceeded Wollongong council’s planning controls, Ms McCabe said, without having “design excellence” to justify these variations.

“Putting DAs into council is a pretty basic thing,” Ms she said.

“At the moment, there are a number of DAs in this street that are dealing with the same issues over flood requirements and design requirements.”

“Council officers have been very clear about flood planning requirements… and that’s been asked not once, not twice, but a number of times.” 

She said the developers had several chances to amend their plans and submit documents, but had not done so.

Likewise, panel member Michael Mantei said the problems with the development could not be resolved by tinkering around the edges.

“If there hasn’t been a flood study done that demonstrates that this proposal complies, then who knows what amount of amendment might be required,” he said.

“While I would normally entertain a deferral where the application was close to being compliant, I think here the outstanding issues are just too significant.”

All five panel members voted to refuse the application.