Upcoming housing estate, Banyan Hill promises to offer elevated coastal and hinterland views of the Ballina Shire.
Upcoming housing estate, Banyan Hill promises to offer elevated coastal and hinterland views of the Ballina Shire. Intrapac Property

Huge subdivision to go ahead after $1m court battle

A PROPOSAL for a major housing estate on the Cumbalum Plateau which became the subject of a court battle is expected to be approved after major changes.

Developer Intrapac has slashed the number of planned residential lots on stage three of the Banyan Hill estate by almost a third, from 642 to 457, and substantially amended its ecological management of the site following the drawn out court proceedings launched in January last year.

Ballina Shire Council has spent close to $1 million on the court proceedings which Ballina mayor David Wright said was regrettable.

"It wasn't money well spent because we shouldn't have had to spend it in the first place," he said.

"But if it saves $10 million in 10 years' time it's money well spent.

"I told the developers flat that that we were never going to allow a subdivision to be a burden on future ratepayers."

Intrapac had originally lodged a development application in April 2016 which failed to respond to several environmental concerns held by the council.

Some of the litany of issues included excess run off from the proposed estate impacting on sensitive downstream environments such as the Newrybar swamp, insufficient analysis of the impact on local flora and fauna, and inadequate road designs and retaining walls.

In response, Intrapac launched legal action in January 27 last year in the Land and Environment Court in what would become a costly legal process.

Throughout the court process the developer lodged a number of revised proposals which failed to address the underlying issues.

It wasn't until last month, following months of joint conferencing between the parties, that the developer lodged an acceptable version of its plan.

Council and the proponent also spent more than three months hammering out largely agreed conditions of consent for the development.

The new proposal has cut 185 residential lots from the original plan, includes a complete redesign of the stormwater management system for the estate, the road system, and much more extensive tree mapping.

It now includes 457 residential lots, four future development lots, eight rural residential lots, and 13 public reserves.

Max Shifman, chief operating officer for Intrapac Property, said the company was looking forward to delivering the new housing development to Ballina.

"The major changes related to some urban design and landscaping measures which were modified in consultation with the Council," Mr Shifman said in a statement.

"We are also maintaining a small amount of additional vegetation across the site over and above what was originally agreed.

Mr Shifman said Intrapac had "no choice" but to commence court proceedings as council had not completed their assessment within the 40 day timeframe, meaning if they had not appealed they would have lost all rights of appeal.

Asked about that, Cr Wright laughed, saying a subdivision of that size "took months" for staff to assess, and Intrapac should have continued to negotiate.

"They didn't want to follow the plan," he said.

"(But) everything that we asked for and planned for is now in the plan

"There is lots of little things, and we had some fantastic experts and that's why we were right. But it's been costly and time consuming and at times worrying."

The council is still considering how to recoup its legal costs, which will be the subject of a confidential councillor briefing.

"We're trying to minimise the impact on our budget, and there is a number of ways we can do it," Cr Wright said.