Five years after a planning proposal was put forward to establish a highway service centre on the Pacific Highway, Tea Gardens, MidCoast Council has decided not to go ahead with the project.
The decision not to progress with the planning proposal was primarily a concern for the welfare of the local and endangered koala population and other native animals.
"This proposal is inconsistent with ministerial direction 7.3 Commercial and Retail Development along the Pacific Highway, North Coast (March 2022)," Jeremy Miller said after opposing the recommendation put forward by council land use planner, Aaron Kelly.
Mr Kelly recommended that council accept the conclusions of the HillPDA Economic Impact Assessment for a highway service centre, at Station Creek north of the Tea Gardens turnoff.
He reported economic impacts both on Bulahdelah and Tea Gardens were acceptable and proposed that council request the proponent undertake a number of additional studies before considering the planning proposal for a gateway determination.
However, Cr Miller countered: "Specifically, the subject site is not included in the listed localities for where the establishment of highway service centre is permitted and has not demonstrated that this inconsistency is only of "minor significance".
There are several issues with this proposal but the biodiversity one cannot be understated.- Jeremy Miller
"The applicant has been requested to undertake negotiations with Transport for NSW in relation to accessing a future highway service centre from the Station Creek Rest Area," Cr Miller said.
"Without this matter being resolved and the proposal being supported by Transport for NSW, council is not in a position to support the planning proposal.
"No evidence has been provided to indicate that a highway service centre on the site can be serviced by water or reticulated sewerage.
"There are significant biodiversity issues identified in the Biodiversity Assessment Report that cannot be overcome by management through mechanisms such as a Planning Agreement.
"There are several issues with this proposal but the biodiversity one cannot be understated; there is a very small corridor between two quite large areas where various koalas and other animals live and without that small chain in between I think would be under threat by this development.
"It is a risk to the fauna in the area."
His opposition was supported by Dheera Smith, who said she also shared Cr Miller's biodiversity concerns.
She said the applicant had not provided Aboriginal cultural heritage and other important reports to council
"I would also ask that by turning down a new development we offer any advice that the developer seeks to have on a new and better plan that suits the community," Cr Smith said.
The decision to reject the proposal was passed unanimously by councillors attending last month's May ordinary meeting.
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