The Mirvac plans to build a new development on the former IBM site at 55 Coonara Avenue, West Pennant Hills have been approved as part of the Planning Assessment Acceleration Scheme.

The Mirvac proposal, which backs onto the Cumberland State Forest at the former IBM site, was one of 24 ‘shovel ready’ projects that The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment announced it was considering fast-tracking under the Planning Assessment Acceleration Scheme during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last week, Thursday, June 18, it agreed to amend The Hills Local Environmental Plan 2019 to rezone land at 55 Coonara Avenue, West Pennant Hills (Lot 61 DP 737386) for medium to high density residential development with a maximum yield of 600 dwellings and to enable the conservation of critically endangered ecological communities.

Hills Shire Council received more than 4000 letters of objections to the original rezoning proposal and a petition started by Lyndsey Hatchwell had received more than 8,440 signatures by Tuesday, June 23.

Hills Shire Councillors rejected the move to rezone the area in November last year and wrote to the Minister for Planning requesting the planning proposal not to proceed.

Last week, Hills Shire Mayor, Michelle Byrne appealed to the Environment Minister, Matt Kean, to transfer Cumberland State Forest to the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

She said the rezoning approval had been a huge disappointment.

“It’s disheartening that when Council has made a decision on a local planning outcome, that this decision can be overturned.

“Councillors have been sidelined on making decisions about Development Applications (DA), and instead we are told to focus on more strategic matters like rezoning proposals. This is a local planning decision, which we made publicly, and as the local planning authority, it should have been upheld.”

 She said concerns included: loss of employment land and the environmental impact of more dwellings.

“Residents have been in contact to also raise similar concerns, as well as the potential destruction of the Blue Gum High Forest and Sydney Turpentine Ironbark Forest, which is located on this site,” she said.

“There is also the issue of a lack of infrastructure in place to support a development of this kind and the knock-on effects it will have, such as the increased demand on local health services, schools, as well as more pressure on our local roads and on our existing recreational and community facilities which are already beyond capacity.”

Changes to Mirvac’s proposal have included reduced areas of land to be zoned residential, higher levels of environmental conservation over a larger part of the site and a nine hectare expansion of the Cumberland State Forest.

The Mayor said: “We all take for granted footpaths, cycleways, playing fields, recreational centres, libraries, community centres and the like. These are things that are fundamental to our quality-of-life and it is expected that all new housing developments cater for these needs proportionately. Many other rezoning proposals would never have been approved without a robust solution to these infrastructure issues.

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