Hills not alive with the sound of building


ALL plans for new housing subdivisions and major rezonings of land for residential use in hilly areas of the Tweed have been frozen.

Tweed Shire Council's administrators last night imposed the freeze in a surprise move which some development consultants said left them stunned.

The freeze will stay in place for at least five months.

It follows last week's inspection by the administrators of future development sites and flooding of some built-up areas.

Under the move put forward by planning committee chair Lucy Turnbull and backed by fellow administrators Garry Payne and Max Boyd, all subdivisions and rezoning applications for future urban land in hilly areas will be deferred until a special report is finalised at the end of October, then put out for public comment for 28 days.

Mrs Turnbull signalled the report would look at world's best practice for protecting the beauty of scenic but steep sites around the Tweed and consider the dangers of developing those areas.

"Developments and subdivisions must take into account the impacts of the hilly terrain and heavy rainfall and flood impacts," she said.

"In particular subdivisions and development which change the levels of the land so that natural water courses are destroyed and stormwater impacts are severe, especially where cutting and filling involves the construction of high retaining walls, should be discouraged."

Mrs Turnbull said it was "important for the maintenance of the region's natural beauty" that development not have excessive cutting, filling and alteration of the natural landscape and should should retain as much natural vegetation as possible.

The first development affected by the freeze was a 45-lot subdivision in McAllisters Road, Bilambil Heights, which planning staff recommended be given the go ahead.

Development manager for the project Ken Butler said he was stunned: "I flew up from Sydney to talk to this meeting about the merits of this proposal and we got hit with this.

"We went through a very lengthy planning process... since December 2003."

Local consultant Martin Findlater said the move put the project "back to before square one".

"It's another country," he added.

In a further surprise move the administrators ditched plans to merge council departments, instead returning to four divisions including a separate planning and development section. They have asked one director expected to retire, Don Buckley, to consider staying on.

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