Community group pleased by council's Bath St backflip

28th August 2019

Source: Newcastle Herald | By: Max McKinney | Posted: August 28, 2019

A community group which rallied in opposition to Lake Macquarie council's plans for a six-storey development on Toronoto foreshore says it is "pleased" the project has been halted and there will now be an opportunity to have a say on the future of the waterfront site.

The council voted at Monday night's ordinary meeting to defer any work on planning the mixed-use development until a review of council's property portfolio is completed.

It will also investigate reclassifying "all or part of" the Bath Street and Victory Row site to community land, and consult with the public about future options for it.

Toronto Foreshore Protection Group's Suzanne Pritchard said the deferral outcome was encouraging.

"Generally, we're pleased that there's been a halt in the process to allow time to sit back and consider," she said.

"I hope it doesn't play out like Cr Baker and Cr Pauling were proposing in that it's just going to be wait until after the [2020] election and then it will happen again."

The Liberal councillors had been vocal in their opposition to the motion that was passed, with Cr Baker saying the deferral was "playing it out until after the election."

"This amendment muddies the waters," he said. "It is a way to sneak a building through the back door."

Ms Pritchard, who was among a packed public gallery, said the debate - which featured six amendments and went for more than two-and-a-half hours - had been highly "politicised",

However she said it was "reassuring" the council had committed to consulting the community about the future options for the site. She said failing to conduct proper consultation, and include the project in the master-planning process for the adjoining foreshore land, had been a crucial mistake.

It was "hugely enlightening" and "affirming for the group" to see council admit they "got it wrong" in terms of consultation, she said.

Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper said he too, was pleased with the outcome.

"Four and six-storey buildings on such a highly-constrained site are totally inappropriate in my opinion," he said. "I'm hopeful that the council can now pursue a plan that is more in line with community expectations, and I'm hoping they do that straight away."

Ms Pritchard said the "ultimate outcome" could come from the planned review of council's property portfolio, which might identify other land in Toronto suitable for such a development.

"There are much better opportunities for that style of development," she said.

"There's prime real estate opposite the library with three street frontages ... if that's what you want to have your tapas and sip your chardonnay ... then that's got to be the spot for it."

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