Huntlee, Catherine Hill Bay concerns in planning changes

THE State Government denied that changes to the Lower Hunter Regional Conservation Plan were a "back door" way of getting the Huntlee and Catherine Hill Bay housing developments back on track.

Some of the biggest housing proposals in the Hunter were left in limbo late last year after the Catherine Hill Bay developments were tossed out by the Land and Environment Court and the Government admitted approving Huntlee unlawfully.

Little had been heard publicly from the Government since but The Herald has learned that letters were sent recently to local councils and environmental groups explaining various amendments to the conservation plan.

The letter from the Department of Environment and Climate Change said the Government was no longer talking about "legally enforceable agreements to transfer 12,000 hectares of privately owned land" and would refer instead to "statements recognising the role of government land and private lands in achieving conservation outcomes".

Departmental director Gary Davies defended the amended conservation plan, saying the wording changes were only minor amendments.

"I can assure you the amendments are in no way a back door attempt to get these developments back on the table," Mr Davies said.

"They will be considered on their merits by the appropriate planning principles."

Cessnock councillor James Ryan, who took part in the Huntlee challenge, said the Government appeared determined to act as if the court challenge had never succeeded.