Council rejects seniors housing plan
Gosford Council has rejected a proposal for a seniors housing and aged care facility, with 126 units, at Empire Bay.
The council has resolved that the planning proposal was inconsistent with a number of Council policies and plans including the State Environment Planning Policy, Community Strategic Plan-Gosford 2025 and Biodiversity Strategy.
Council also decided to write to the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing Mr Mark Butler, parliamentary secretary for Health and Ageing Ms Catherine King and Minister for Ageing and Disability Services Mr Andrew Constance regarding the exceptionally high costs involving the provision of residential care for older people.
It will urge the government to create incentives to make it financially viable for developers to provide this form of housing in urban areas.
The matter was considered by Council at its meeting of Tuesday, February 14, only to be deferred to the meeting held Tuesday, April 3.
In a report prepared by the council's environment and planning directorate the planning proposal was described as inconsistent with the general and specific aims of State Environment Planning Policy No 19-Bushland in Urban Areas as the site, located at Lot 1 Empire Bay Dr, was covered by large, mature forest scale trees that exhibited an open forest structure.
"This vegetation provides habitat for a range of threatened and non threatened fauna species.
"Any proposed aged care facility would result in extensive tree and habitat loss.
"The value of the bushland has been weighed up against the social and economic values and it is considered that given the above environmental concerns, other locations that are more centrally located to town and village centres should be considered for this land use."
The planning proposal was also contrary, according to Council staff, to the intent of the State Environment Planning Policy as residents would need to have facilities to access shops, banks, community services, recreation facilities and general practitioners.
"'Access' means being located not more than 400 metres from these services or from transport able to take residents to these services.
"Such access to these services or to the transport source is to be by a sealed footpath with a suitable grade.
"The nearest and only services in the immediate vicinity of the site are the general store-service station at Empire Bay which is 500 metres distant.
"There is no footpath to facilitate pedestrian access."
Mayor Cr Laurie Maher voted against his fellow councillors and in favour of the development, using the retirement village in South Kincumber as an example of how not all retirement villages were in walking distance to shops and other facilities.
Council staff, however, stated in the report that the land was "simply not the right place".
"The land is not even on the edge of the urban footprint as it does not adjoin an urban zone.
"In fact it is 560 metres from the urban zones of Empire Bay and 1.5 km from the urban zones of Bensville."
"The main reason the applicant has provided for justification of this planning proposal for seniors housing at Empire Bay is the current and future lack of seniors housing on the Woy Woy Peninsula.
"This alone is not a strategic planning justification for locating, what is essentially an urban use, on land that is zoned for Conservation and Scenic Protection purposes and acts as a 'green' buffer between settlements.
"The location of such a use outside of the existing urban footprint is contrary to approved Council strategies such as the Community Strategic Plan and Biodiversity Strategy."
Gosford Council Agenda ENV.28, 3 Apr 2012
Photo: Gosford Council