21 February 2024

Council rejects 800 home 'agri-hood' proposal for Broulee farmland

| Katrina Condie
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map of proposed development

The Farm rezoning proposal can still be submitted to the State Government for consideration. Image: Brightlands Living.

Eurobodalla Council has rejected a proposal for an 800-home ‘agri-hood’ development, known as ‘The Farm’, at Broulee.

Councillors voted not to support an application to rezone 126.7 hectares of farmland at 207 Broulee Road from RU1 Primary Production to C4 Environmental Living to facilitate what Sydney-based developer Brightlands Living described as “a unique community that integrates agriculture into a residential neighbourhood”.

At Tuesday’s (20 February) council meeting – the first for the year – Mayor Mathew Hatcher, along with councillors Amber Schutz, Tanya Dannock and Tubby Harrison went against staff recommendations and voted to support the proposal being tested for its strategic merit by the NSW Government’s Gateway determination process.

Councillors Rob Pollock, Anthony Mayne, Pete Diskon and Alison Worthington supported the staff recommendation. Cr David Grace did not participate in debate or vote due to a declared conflict of interest – he has family property nearby in Broulee.

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Following a heated discussion in front of a full gallery, the Mayor used his casting vote and, after initially voting to send the project to the NSW Government Gateway for determination, he rejected the proposal.

“It’s my belief that we need to be open to new ideas and at least be testing those, but it fell four-four, and I had a casting vote, and with that, I went against my original decision,” Cr Hatcher said.

“I feel quite strongly that it’s not the role of any chair or mayor to, over a long term, change the direction of the shire.

“I think we need more support and, because of that, that’s why I chose the route that I did,” he added.

The ‘agri-hood’ proposal would incorporate a market garden, cafe, and wellness centre at the site, which is currently used for cattle grazing. It would also incorporate the Mount Oldrey Homestead and part of the Illawong Nature Reserve.

The development would include about 800 low and medium-density dwellings with an average lot size of 600 square metres, targeted to a mix of markets comprising over 55s, families and workers in clustered housing ‘hamlets’ linked by private roads.

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Brightlands Living can now apply to the NSW Government to rezone the property to allow for an expansion of Broulee Village to the west side of George Bass Drive – setting a precedent for future development outside the Eurobodalla Rural Lands Strategy and the Eurobodalla Settlement Strategy.

“The proponent still has an option to push it onto the state anyway. It would just go there without the support of Council,” Cr Hatcher said.

Past applications for development consideration on the corner of Broulee Road and George Bass Drive, including a school, have been rejected on environmental grounds.

A planning proposal review prepared by an external consultant and presented to Eurobodalla Shire Council in July recommended the proposal not be supported as it would double the current population even though the site was not recognised for growth by any regional or local strategy.

Area map of locality of proposed Broulee development.

Area map showing the proposed Broulee development. Image: Brightlands Living.

The consultant’s report states, “While the ‘agri-hood’ vision in itself is commendable, it is considered that the draft planning proposal is inconsistent with the vision and planning of the strategic planning framework at State Government and Eurobodalla Council levels.

“This includes being inconsistent with the draft South East and Tablelands Regional Plan, Council’s Local Strategic Planning Statement and various state environmental planning policies and Ministerial directions.

“The proposal is inconsistent, or its consistency is not able to be demonstrated, with various Eurobodalla Council strategies, including the Eurobodalla Rural Lands Strategy and the Eurobodalla Settlement Strategy.

“The most fundamental issue is the site not being located within any current adopted growth area identified by the strategic planning framework. The proposed scale of growth and location is a significant departure from the strategic planning framework.”

The character of the proposal was also of significant concern, with the report stating, “It comprises a large development, essentially urban in density, form and character, on currently unserviced and isolated rural land.

“It will require a significant infrastructure investment.

“There are uncertainties in the delivery of infrastructure, in particular that of water and sewer, roads and public transport. It will result in the dispersal and inadequacy of infrastructure provision in Eurobodalla Shire and divert resources from the existing priority growth areas.

“The site will substantially change the rural character and impact Broulee village and the surrounding critically environmentally sensitive area.

“In conclusion, the extent of the inconsistency is significant, and it will undermine the achievement of Council’s current long-term planning. It is therefore recommended that the proposal not be supported.”

The Broulee Mossy Point Community Association (BMPCA) opposed the development on a number of grounds, saying: “The development does not provide a good model for housing development in the Eurobodalla”. It cites risks of environmental damage and says it “is contrary to the long-term concept of Broulee as an integrated village”.

“The BMPCA does support the design of future housing development to meet environmental considerations … it does not see this proposal as meeting these criteria.”

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patricia gardiner5:14 pm 25 Feb 24

It is now apparent where the allegiance of our Mayor(even though he changed his vote) and Councillors Schutz, Dannock and Harrison lie.
It is not with the residents of Broulee and it is not with Eurobodalla ratepayers, as it is us who would have to foot the bill for the extensive amount of infrastructure required while also servicing the multi million dollar debt created for us by the previous council.
We hoped and prayed this council would be different, but it seems some things never change..

Trish Hellier2:01 pm 24 Feb 24

This proposal would not help this immediate problem with housing shortage as it was a long term proposal. In the proposal there was a requirement to change land zonings. The Councils Rural Lands took an exhausting 12/13 years to complete. The proposal with all its “bells and whistle” would require large strata fees to cover the costs of the “bells and whistles”.

Who would oversee the market gardens and the area of land set aside for cattle raising was not sustainable as it would have required continual hand feeding of the cattle.

I firmly believe the “bells and whistles” was only there to appease and would never eventuate.

I spoke at the meeting on this proposal and I supported the Council’s staff recommendation and I supported the final outcome.

To solve the housing crisis the State Government needs to step up and do what they have previously done and immediately purchase homes/units and the Federal Government needs to slow down immigration.

I watched the Councill meeting live-streamed, and I must say that the residents of our Shire are not well represented by those who occupy the seats on Council, as shown by their conduct during this meeting.

I’m entirely perplexed by our Mayor’s casting vote and the reasoning that he is articulating for it. Respectfully, indeed, it is the role of the Chair (Mayor) to change the direction of the Shire when such change is shown to be beneficial to the Shire. That’s exactly what the Councillors are mandated to do under their appointments.

From the information publicly available, it seems that the Council staff, with the benefit of an external consultant’s report, have decided that the proposed development should not proceed. Clr. Worthington corroborates this with her thinly veiled threat to the Councillors that “Councillors should not defy Council staff”. Defy? So, disagreement with a subordinate is defiance? Why not? Who works for whom?

The noisy anti-development voices that seem to have such sway with this Council should not be the only voices heard on this proposal. This proposal is for all of the Eurobodalla – the residents, the businesses, the farmers, property investors, and even the renters. I respectfully submit that the Council had a duty of care, an obligation, to present to the punters the opportunity via public display to consider the proposal and comment accordingly.

Mayor Hatcher has removed this right from the residents of Eurobodalla based on his fear of defying the Council staff.

Maybe it’s time to dust off the pre-election speeches and promises made by all of the incumbents to remind them just how far they have strayed from their promises, the promises they were elected on.

cannedbeeria4:32 pm 21 Feb 24

A courageous but admirable decisiion by Mayor Hatcher. If he had maintained his original support, as he says, it would have created a precedent that would have had severe ramifications, especially given the current “heat” over the housing supply crisis.

Lotsof negative arguments to justify the no (nimby) vote from the ‘we see the need for change but not now (or ever)’ brigade.

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