'Residential character' sparks controversy in DLEP

Blue Mountains deputy mayor Brendan Luchetti with mayor Mark Greenhill before last week's meeting about the draft LEP.

Blue Mountains deputy mayor Brendan Luchetti with mayor Mark Greenhill before last week's meeting about the draft LEP.

The first of four special council meetings aimed at locking in the new local environmental plan was held last week, attracting a packed house in the Katoomba chambers.

More than 50 people registered to speak at the meeting, which canvassed just some of the sections of the draft plan (DLEP) 2013.

One of the more contentious issues was a provision to preserve the "residential character" of parts of some Mountains towns, including Glenbrook, Lawson, Leura and Blackheath. This section attracted 199 submissions when the DLEP was on exhibition.

It was opposed by the combined local chambers of commerce, which want provisions for multi-unit or medium-density housing, particularly near Mountains villages.

But the mayor, Clr Mark Greenhill, said council did not support that view.

"Imagine taking those big garden blocks in places like Glenbrook and Wentworth Falls and chopping them up for villas or McMansions. Imagine losing that local character, one of the things that brings people to visit our city," he said.

"Less than a quarter of the areas available for medium-density housing have been taken up. Why would we need more?

"The council has taken the view that we will keep faith with what we promised the community. We will argue for the continuation of those protections that keep the Blue Mountains the special place that it is," the mayor said.

Council has been at pains to point out that DLEP 2013 is not a complete revision of the old LEP 2005 but rather a conversion of the old plan into a format which meets new state government requirements.

The residential character section, for example, is a translation of the old "living conservation" zones.

Clr Romola Hollywood said she was concerned to hear at the meeting that some groups would prefer to see rezoning of parts of Wentworth Falls to enable medium-density housing.

"This would include the entry to Wentworth Falls along the highway and the northside of Wentworth Falls from the village right up around Blaxland Road. These areas are currently zoned living conservation in recognition of the unique character of the streetscape and historic significance of the gardens and homes."

The deputy mayor, Clr Brendan Luchetti, said that having a residential character conservation zone was very important to the community.

"I am confident that [the LEP] will continue to strike the right balance between protecting the environment, allowing appropriate development and preserving the unique character of our villages," he said.

"Councillors have the same goal as our community in this endeavour - to have an LEP that continues to enhance our surroundings, that continues to produce balanced and harmonious outcomes and that continues to make the Blue Mountains a very special place to live or visit."

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