Thousands oppose Helensburgh rezoning bid

Wollongong City Council has been flooded with more than 18,000 submissions opposed to rezoning environmentally sensitive land around Helensburgh, Otford and Stanwell Tops.A community website was used to send more than 18,200 objections to the council's most recent 7(d) land review.The council is yet to tally all submissions but so far estimates it has received only around 9000 submissions via the internet and post - both for and against the review's recommendations.In May, the council released a preliminary report responding to the 3447 submissions received on the earlier Willana review of 7(d) lands.The latest report - exhibited from May 31 to August 16 - shelved plans that would have allowed up to 350 additional homes in areas previously not permitted for residential development.Instead, it recommended just 31 additional dwelling entitlements.Around 70 per cent of the former 7(d) Hacking River Environmental Protection land would be rezoned to E2 environmental conservation.But residents remained concerned the proposals diminished environmental protection.Otford Protection Society secretary Natasha Watson created a community website in 2009 to inform residents about the 7(d) land issue.To coincide with the latest review, Ms Watson and the society's publicity officer Greg Petty developed a website portal for residents to send form letters and individual comments to council on more than 20 separate precincts and issues.Ms Watson said the system allowed individuals to send multiple submissions, but at least 1000 individuals had lodged submissions through the website.She said the volume of submissions could have delayed them reaching council.A council spokeswoman said the submissions raised complex issues concerning environmental protection, land owners' desire for development and historical decisions."The issues raised in submissions will be reported to council to guide council's decision in whether to progress part of the draft 7(d) review to a formal planning proposal that would amend the planning controls for the area," she said. "If council resolves to prepare a planning proposal, further community consultation will occur."Meantime, Mr Petty renewed his call for the NSW Department of Planning to assess a planning proposal lodged by the Otford Protection Society in May under the department's Gateway process.The group wants the proposal, which offers alternative zoning boundaries, placed on the department's LEP tracking website.A department spokesman confirmed it was the first such proposal submitted by a community group under the Gateway legislation and needed to be considered carefully.Mr Petty said the group had met department officials in August and had responded to requests for more information.