What's happening to Hill Road Reserve?
At The Hills Shire Council meeting held Tuesday 22 November, the Councillors passed a motion to submit a Planning Proposal to the Department of Planning that encompasses land on Hill Rd and Colbarra Place, currently held by Council, and also the privately owned land which sits between the Council's two properties. This includes rezoning part of the properties to E2 (conservation) and the front of the properties, which face Hill road to E4 (residential). The land is named by Council as Hill Road Reserve.
In general, the Planning Proposal will remove all the Open Space which currently exists and use it for residential development. The residential area will contain eleven parcels which will stretch from the corner of Hill Road and Aiken road, up to the corner of Hill Road and Colbarra Place and around to roughly the entrance to Rockwall Place. Due to Bush Fire zoning, a 35 meter 'buffer' (also known as an APZ) is required behind the proposed housing sites, and a large portion of the bushland will be cleared. It is still unclear exactly how Council will implement the required bush fire zone, although at present they are suggesting having 5 meters in the rear of the residents backyards, 15 meters of cleared bushland and then another 15 meters encroaching into the actual bushland itself. The actual proposal shows the clearing of 35 meters of Highly Endangered Bushland.
The bushland which exists on Hill Road Reserve contains flora which is classified as Highly Critically Endangered by both the State and Federal Governments. The main two being Blue Gum High Forest, and Sydney Turpentine Ironbark Forest. Fauna classified as threatened species by the state and federal government also uses the site as a habitat. The main known threatened species which use the site are the Grey-headed Flying-fox and also the Eastern Bent-wing Bat. A number of additional threatened species are likely to also use the site at times. Council is aware of this, as the information is contained in the 2009 report written by GHD to identify for council Development Options for Hill Road Reserve. They are also aware of the importance of the creek which runs through the site for maintaining and sustaining the habitat of the flora and fauna.
Council has been advised by the Office of Environment and Heritage that land zoned as E2 conservation is heavily restricted in its uses. The Office does not support the proposal due to concern with both short term and long term impacts on the bushland from removal of forest and disturbance of habitats at the site. It would be misleading to assume the public and residents could use this as open space, or passive recreational space. If the council manages to acquire the private property located in the middle, either through negotiation or forcible acquisition, the presently 'open and cleared area' of the property will be zoned as E2 so it will not be accessible to use as open or passive recreational area. Building on the land along Hill Road will lead to loss of all the open space at the site. To meet APZ bushfire requirements, a large portion of Highly Critically Endangered Bushland must be removed, some of which, such as the Blue Gum High Forest, is near extinction.
The Council believes that it has met all the requirements to inform residents, particularly those living close to the proposed development, and provide information and consult with the community. Were you aware of the proposed development? Did you receive a letter advising you of the Council's intent to rezone and reclassify the area and/or a letter from the Council informing you of a public hearing which was held earlier in the year? Were you aware the proposal was on the Council's meeting agenda Tuesday 22 November 2011?
At present it appears a large number of residents received no notification or letter from Council, and/or were not aware of the proposed development and/or were not aware the Council were placing their final proposal with the Department of Planning to make a decision. At a residents meeting held Tuesday 29 November, 37 people representing 27 households attended, which was quite positive at such short notice, with limited time available to meet people and deliver flyers. It was made up of people living on Hill Road, View St, Colbarra Pl, Rockwall Pl and a small portion of Ellerslie Dr. 15 households had not received information from the Council, and a large number of those reside on Hill Road and directly face the proposed development. At the meeting the Hill Road Reserve Action Group was formed and an overall strategy agreed. This includes gathering further information, developing core points for residents to use when writing their own letters to submit to the Department of Planning, and a letter from the Action Group itself. Letters will also be written to other relevant parties such as local Councillors, State and Federal ministers. A core group of residents has been formed to commence information gathering, letter writing, and formulation of additional steps and actions to discuss with the Action Group.
Membership of and involvement with the Action Group is not limited to residents residing in close proximity to Hill Road Reserve, as the actions of Council affect the majority of residents in the shire.
What are your thoughts? Would you like to be involved with the Action Group?
Contact: email@example.com, 0401 214 665