HUNTLEE: The huge housing proposal is back on the table.THE $1.5 billion Huntlee new town development proposal has re-emerged, after a court yesterday reinstated its rezoning for up to 7500 homes and 200 hectares of business land near Branxton.
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The proponent of the controversy-plagued project and development industry welcomed the decision as one that would help secure the supply of housing in the growing region.
But it is unlikely to be the end of the saga, with Huntlee opponent the Sweetwater Action Group foreshadowing that it would consider mounting further challenges to the merits of the development.
The NSW Court of Appeal upheld yesterday an appeal from proponent LWP Property Group against the earlier ruling of the NSW Land and Environment Court.
In July, it had quashed the state significant site listing and rezoning for Huntlee that the former Labor government gazetted last year.
The earlier decision found former minister for planning Tony Kelly had not properly considered the need for remediation work on some of the site’s land.
As well, the minister should not have heeded a voluntary planning agreement, in which the proponents agreed to transfer more than 5000hectares of conservation offset lands and $1.1million to manage the lands to the government following the site’s gazettal.
But the Court of Appeal overturned the findings.
Sweetwater spokesman Chris Parker described the decision as a ‘‘bitter disappointment’’ and a blow to proper planning in the region.
He said the group would seek a meeting with Planning Minister Brad Hazzard to argue the need to remove Huntlee as a future housing area under the Lower Hunter Regional Strategy.
Huntlee was included in the strategy after intense lobbying by its previous proponent and despite planners ranking it least suitable out of potential sites.
LWP Property Group managing director Danny Murphy said he was hopeful the development could begin in 2012-13.
Mr Murphy said he believed applications for the project’s first stages would now be considered by the Planning Assessment Commission, after the Coalition government’s recent changes to planning laws.
Planning Minister Brad Hazzard told the Newcastle Herald he would seek advice about the decision and Huntlee’s place in the strategy. But he said he considered it would be inappropriate to go against the court’s decision.