Muswellbrook ready to fight over housing

THE NSW Government and Muswellbrook Shire Council are on a collision course over attempts to block a 750-lot housing development for an ‘‘inconceivable’’ coalmine on Denman’s doorstep.

The council will almost certainly reject tonight’s last-minute objections from two government bodies to the West Denman urban release area, which proposes 750 new houses over 130 hectares in stages over at least 10 years.

This is despite the Department of Trade and Investment’s Division of Resources and Energy objecting because of the land’s ‘‘coal resource potential’’, and the Mine Subsidence Board noting the ‘‘potential sterilisation of these reserves’’.

This comes less than two weeks after the Newcastle Herald reported that Muswellbrook Shire Council’s housing shortage was critical, with up to 50 families forced to live in a temporary ‘‘tent city’’ in a camping area next to Muswellbrook showground.

The mine subsidence board has also objected to residential development that ‘‘could result in unacceptable levels of mine subsidence damage and present an unreasonable liability to the board’s fund’’.

Approval could lead to a Land and Environment Court challenge by the NSW Government.

In a blistering response Muswellbrook mayor Martin Rush said the objections put coal before people, were ‘‘ill-thought through’’ and not supported by evidence, and gave priority to an ‘‘inconceivable’’ mine that would never go ahead only one kilometre from the town.

The objections came three years after the NSW Government gazetted a planning instrument which rezoned the area for residential development without raising any concerns.

They also came after the government released a land use strategy with mechanisms for dealing with clashes between viticulture and thoroughbred horse breeding and mining, but not residential development.

‘‘The issue that has arisen highlights the inadequacy of the state government’s planning strategy for the Upper Hunter,’’ Cr Rush said.

‘‘The failure to address urban land use conflict with coalmining has meant the community has become a second class consideration in the process now proposed to manage coalmining land use considerations in the Upper Hunter.

‘‘It is inconceivable that a coalmine, whether open cut or underground, could ever be permitted to adjoin residences in Denman, and yet that is the basis for these objections,’’ Cr Rush said.

The Denman community would ‘‘vigorously protest against any attempt by the State Government to sterilise its future development’’.

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