A $23 million Hilton Grugeon-backed housing development in Whitebridge has been approved.

Joint Regional Planning Panel chair Garry Fielding dubbed the Whitebridge decision one of the panel's most difficult.
Joint Regional Planning Panel chair Garry Fielding dubbed the Whitebridge decision one of the panel's most difficult.

A $23 million housing development in Whitebridge has been approved by the Joint Regional Planning Panel.

The medium density housing development, which could bring as many as 89 new homes to the area and is backed by Hilton Grugeon, was given the go-ahead after a mammoth four-hour meeting that saw dozens of community members speak against the plan.

Panel chair Garry Fielding said the decision to approve the development was “one of the more difficult” in the panel’s history.

“As a result of tonight there will be some changes that may make some people happy, and others unhappy,” he said.

The planning panel deferred a decision on the development in July and asked the proponent, SNL Building Constructions, to remove some buildings and lower the heights on others.

The developer offered to lower some heights but not all, and to retain the other buildings with a larger set back. 

Instead, under a lengthy list of conditions on what is a deferred commencement approval, the panel said it could keep some of the contested building heights but will have to provide more open space. 

A sticking point in the development has been a call for the developer to prepare a species impact statement to gauge the potential ramifications for the threatened squirrel glider, but that was not included in the conditions placed on the development. 

In the lead up to Thursday’s meeting, Whitebridge Community Alliance spokeswoman Lynden Jacobi suggested the development would end up in court if it was approved without the species impact statement because of “deficiencies in assessing the potential impact of the development on squirrel gliders”. 

In his opening address, town planner for the developer SNL, Wade Morris, was critical of directions given by the panel when it deferred the proposal in June, saying there wasn’t a lot of direction behind the reasoning for the panel’s decision.

The Whitebridge development has been strongly opposed by sections of the community and there have been more than 700 submissions, most opposing it, since it was first lodged in 2013. 

As in July, dozens of residents spoke against the plan, including Lake Macquarie Councillor Barney Langford, who called for the panel to refuse the development. 

Camille Clinton was one of a number of Whitebridge residents who said the proposed development did not fit with the community’s identity, and criticised a lack of open space in the planned development.

“Developers do not have the right to decide the future of a suburb,” Ms Clinton told the panel.

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