Planning for Gosford CBD is failing. Decisions in the 1980s allowed a shopping centre to draw the economic life blood away from the CBD.
In 2004, Gosford Council concluded from a poll of over 50,000 voters that residents were happy for increased heights in the CBD but less than 14 storeys. Over the last 10 years there have been at least three successive planning processes, each increasing heights further. Council failed to implement these plans instead allowing developers to break the rules. The developments were not built, land values increased and fuelled more speculative rezonings.
The latest development is Waterside: three towers that exceed height limits with the greatest variation over 210 per cent. Waterside came to the Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) in September. Council had approved a “Statement of Strategic Intent (SOSI)” that included increasing heights further. This had never been on public exhibition. The JRPP deferred Waterside so the SOSI could be exhibited – although a senior council officer advised that he had been in contact with the Minister so this could come back to the next meeting.
Meanwhile, in November at a confidential meeting, Council supported a move to include a key public facility within the development, potentially directing over $10 million to the site. The SOSI went on exhibition on December 2. Waterside came to the JRPP on December 3 and was approved. Public consultation was ignored even before it got past day one.
Planning is an inherently convoluted process. It seems developers are allowed to break the rules and reap huge financial returns, ignoring years of community consultation. With a new Planning Minister there was hope that some integrity would be restored. Unfortunately poor decisions continue under Minister Stokes’ watch.
Jane Smith is the CEO of the Community Environment Network