Council weak at the knees: Opinion

As is often the case with major developments in the Singleton Local Government Area the people who make the final approval on the project do not have to live next door to their ruling.

This was put succinctly by a resident at a Planning and Assessment Commission hearing held earlier this year in Singleton when they said those most impacted by the development receive the least benefit.

And this will certainly be the case for the objectors to the proposed 24-hour-seven day a week service centre to be located at the intersection of Bridgman Road and the New England Highway.

The objectors hoped the fact that the development was to be located in a high hazard floodway, which also had serious traffic issues, would mean Singleton Council remained firmly opposed to the application and be prepared to take the case to a full hearing of the Land and Environment Court.

Early signs were good when Singleton Council rejected the proposal at their meeting in March 2017, but the proponent, Cardiff Holdings headed straight to the Land and Environment Court to appeal that resolution.

Given Council’s earlier unanimous resolution many in the community expected our Councillors to ensure nothing was ever built on that location.

But no they decided to allow Council staff to initiate negotiations with the proponent on achieving agreeable consent conditions for the development. Why? Can they please explain to their community exactly why this decision was taken.

Fighting the development was therefore left in the hands of the original objectors who spoke directly to the Land and Environment Court’s Commissioner Bish at a hearing on the consent conditions in Singleton last month.

It must be remembered we,  as in ratepayers,  paid for the Singleton Floodplain Risk Management Study that was adopted by Singleton Council on July 16, 2012. Those councillors who voted in favour of this study and who are still on council are Sue Moore, Godfrey Adamthwaite, John Martin, Tony McNamara and Val Scott.

It clearly states, in this study ,and it is shown on various maps included in the study that the land ,where this service station is to be built, is a high hazard floodway and therefore is unsuitable for residential, commercial and business uses.

We know it floods – just look at the photographs from 2007 and included in the Management Study is a statement saying there is the possibility of major changes to flood behaviour due to various factors including upgrades to the rail line and climate change.

This suggests the flooding could possibly be worse on that site – what happens now with the changes to say the ‘hole in the wall’ at Gowrie Gates for example.

Surely given the risk from flooding, traffic hazards and changing weather patterns we should adopt the pre-cautionary principle when it comes to best practice in planning.

Have we forgotten what happened in Dungog on April 21, 2015 – lives were lost in a flash flood?