A new tourist zone being considered by Blue Mountains council could open the door to large scale development, environmentalists have warned.
The council is introducing the zoning based on the recommendations of a Strategic Tourism and Recreation Planning Study. It would apply to the Blackheath Caravan Park, the Hydro Majestic Hotel, Scenic World and the Fairmont Resort.
The zoning is to encourage and preserve tourism, and is a draft planning proposal, so it will go to the Department of Planning and Environment before going out for community consultation.
Paul Vale, Blue Mountains Conservation Society bushcare officer and deputy co-ordinator of the Popes Glen Bushcare Group, is worried the change in zoning could pave the way for large scale development at the council-owned Blackheath Caravan Park if the site was ever sold.
“There’s the potential for a gated, high-level overdeveloped tourist facility which people are bussed or helicoptered into,” he said.
While he admits that’s the worst case scenario, he says the environmental groups are also worried about the disturbance to the protected Popes Glen Reserve, which borders the caravan park and is used by the park’s campers.
Popes Glen Reserve is a Blue Mountains swamp with several threatened plant species, Mr Vale said. A large scale development could also disturb the birds, which the bushcare group has increased from a handful to 55 species in their 25 years maintaining the reserve.
At the November council meeting, new ward 1 councillor Kevin Schreiber spoke in favour of the new zoning recommendation.
“There’s no damage here, just plus, plus, plus for jobs and supporting our area,” he said.
Fellow ward 1 councillor Kerry Brown was concerned how much control council would have of future development and unsuccessfully moved an amendment to exclude Blackheath Caravan Park from the key tourist areas.
“Tourism zoning doesn’t create tourism or a tourism strategy,” she said.
As the caravan park land is council-owned, Penrith council reviewed the proposal to rezone the site, and found a “sound planning process” had been followed.