Bioclinic appeal before court

THE final chapter in the proposal for a bioclinic at Wallabi Point was staged this week.

More than a year after Greater Taree City Council refused a development application for a bioclinic facility at the seaside village, an amended application was put forward by the developer.

Following council's decision in December 2012, Forgall Pty Ltd lodged a Class 1 Appeal to the Land and Environment Court.

Forgall had revised its original submission, downgrading the plans to a two storey hospital facility instead of the original five storeys, with other changes made to try to address some of the concerns by councillors and the community.

However it was obvious at the first part of the hearing by the Land and Environment Court, at the site of the proposed development on Monday, that the core concerns for the residents at Wallabi Point and Greater Taree City Council staff, have not been rectified.

The original application sparked intense public protests and opposition to the development for many reasons including the danger such a facility would pose to the neighbouring waterway and national park.

At the time there were 311 submissions given to council opposing the development for various reasons including widespread belief that the development may not end up being a medical facility, but rather a caravan park.

Council staff had originally recommended that the development be refused, however it received a prolonged life in the council chambers when councillors were divided on whether to approve it or not.

Finally, in December 2012, it was refused.

On Monday Commissioner Susan Dixon attended the site of the proposed development, that neighbours the Saltwater National Park, to assess the land and the surrounding environment.

Before the start of the hearing, the commissioner had driven around the national park and Wallabi Point area.

About 30 community members attended the first part of the hearing, outside the gates of the property, along with town planner Tony Fish, James Lawrence and solicitor Chris Shaw on behalf of Forgall Pty Ltd, and Bruce Moore and Patricia Bowden for the city council, along with their solicitor Adam Seton.

Five community members aired their concerns with the commissioner following an initial address by Tony Fish who showed the amended plans for the development including a two storey main building, surrounded by six small cabins.

"This is for chronic cancer and dialysis patients who wish to seek rehabilitation in a natural environment, rather than a rigid, built environment in an urban setting," Mr Fish said.

Issues raised by the public speakers included fire safety, rezoning, environmental impact and the cultural significance of the neighbouring national park.

One of the main issues brought forward was the fact that although the application is for a health facility, research had found that the proposed development would not meet the Australasian Health Facility Guidelines, would need double the amount of staff that had been written into the submission and that an appropriate licence had never been applied for.

Also the first submission to council had stated that the site had been inspected for Aboriginal or culturally significant artefacts, however this was found to be untrue.

Following the public addresses, Commissioner Dixon headed on to the site with the solicitors from both parties, before the hearing moved to Taree Court House for the remainder of Monday, then on to Sydney for the final day of hearing on Tuesday.

A decision on the matter will be made in the near future, however a time frame had not been given at the time of going to press.

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