by Ian Crouch

Cessnock Council is being urged to ask the state government to authorise a change to the city’s Local Environmental Plan to stop the spread of high density housing.

New housing estates have sprung up in the past 5 years in semi-rural areas like Heddon Greta and Cliftleigh, but developers are taking advantage of current zoning laws to erect dozens of duplex homes compared to owner-occupied freestanding homes. Residents say this is a gross over-development of the area and is creating urban ghettos in these villages.

Council is obliged to approve developments which conform to the current LEP, otherwise it could face costly legal action in the Land and Environment Court from developers.

More than 50 residents turned out for a public meeting at Heddon Greta on Saturday, many of them saying they had no idea such developments would be allowed when they purchased land for their homes. They’ve signed a petition calling for the LEP to be changed before the third stage in the Cliftleigh development goes ahead. They’ve also asked council to order the developer to cease work and not to proceed any further until another promised access road is built and repairs are carried out to Heddon Street, which is the only access road to the area and has been damaged by heavy trucks heading to bulding sites.

Cessnock Mayor, Alison Davey has promised to put forward a mayoral minute on the issue at the next council meeting on July 18, but admits changes to the LEP could take some time. However the issue of promised infrastructure is something which council can act on immediately.

Councillor Neil Gorman said he would also consider raising an urgency motion at the meeting.

State Member for Cessnock, Clayton Barr said he would discuss the matter with NSW Planning Minister, Brad Hazzard, but stressed it was up to council to make a formal application for a change to the LEP, which he would be happy to take to the minister.

Both Mr Barr and Councillor Davey agree high-density housing is inappropriate for rural and regional areas such as Heddon Greta and Cliftleigh.

Cessnock Mp, Clayton Barr and Mayor Alison Davey address the meeting

Concerned residents want action