Accusations fly over Black Hill rezoning
ABC Newcastle, Updated Thu Nov 8, 2012 12:38pm AEDT
The New South Wales Government has been accused of holding a gun to Cessnock Council’s head, over the controversial rezoning of a 300-hectare parcel of land, owned by the Catholic Church.
The Council has received a letter from the Planning Department with an ultimatum to either start the process of rezoning the land to industrial, or risk being replaced as the determining authority.
Greens councillor James Ryan says it is a heavy-handed approach, which does not take into account community concerns over the development of the Church-owned land.
“They’ve sided with the Catholic Church and said Council must support this or be removed,” he said.
“In effect the State Government has held a gun at the head of Cessnock Council.
“This is totally contrary to this Liberal Government’s election promise of returning planning power to local communities.”
Councillor Ryan is also accusing the Catholic Church of putting profits ahead of the community’s interests over the rezoning.
The Church has been negotiating with Council for almost two years and says the land is earmarked in the Lower Hunter Regional Strategy for industrial development.
Councillor Ryan says it is not that simple.
“The problem is this land is one of the notorious pieces of land, put into the Lower Hunter strategy in closed door deals with then Planning Minister Frank Sartor, without any public consultation at all.
“It’s not a good proposal and it certainly doesn’t have the support of the community and it’s not well thought out.”
In a statement, the Catholic Diocese says the rezoning has strong support from Council staff and the Planning Department, as well as qualified support from some local landholders.
It says the site is a former poultry farm that has been mostly cleared or degraded by its former use.
First posted Thu Nov 8, 2012 12:37pm AEDT