Sydney Water Mort St auction

The Blue Mountains Conservation Society is concerned about a parcel of land on Katoomba’s Mort Street that is set to go to auction this weekend – a sale they believe could ultimately threaten Katoomba Creek.

At their May 2 council meeting, councillors voted unanimously to write to Sydney Water asking them to defer the May 21 auction of the old sewage treatment plant site on 111 Mort Street, to allow time “for a clarification on the zoning to environmentally sensitive areas of the site and the risks to nearby Katoomba Creek and swamps”.

The matter relates to a council error in mapping the land, something the Conservation Society president Madi Maclean says did not give their group time to properly respond to. The Society is concerned a possible future development at the site threatens Katoomba Creek.

Ms Maclean said both council and the department of planning have previously publicly expressed concerns about possible contamination issues on the lots.

“We thought that the zoning under the old Local Environment Plan was still in place, which basically prevented re-development. 

“The land should be retained in public ownership as it has significant environmental values. While some of the lots are partially cleared, the remainder of the lots contain natural bushland including Blue Mountains swamps. A watercourse also runs through the lots.”

Council admitted a “procedural error” took place at Mort Street during the mapping of the 43,000 lots under LEP 2015.

“It’s correct there was a mapping error late in the Local Environment Plan 2015 process relating to this property,” a spokeswoman said. “However, the actual land use zone shown on the current gazetted mapping for LEP 2015 is correct, i.e. a split zoning of E2 - environmental conservation - and E3 - environmental management.”

The spokeswoman said there was no cause for concern. “Council acknowledges the site has some environmental constraints, but this is all protected by an E2 zone.

“This is not an exceptional circumstance, there are numerous parcels of land zoned as environmentally protected that are in private ownership in the city.”

Cr Don McGregor, who brought the urgency motion to council, has since been briefed by planners and is no longer concerned.

Another BMCS member, Angela Langdon, said they had hoped council would look at acquiring the land, but the council spokeswoman said there “are higher priority environmentally sensitive lands within the city”.

Local resident and a long-time bushcare volunteer Nick Franklin said he was also concerned about the auction. 

“We have been working along the other side of Katoomba Creek for 21 years - opposite the land being auctioned - I'm worried about the impact of a private development on this highly sensitive environment.” he said.

“The lack of any transparency in the process makes a lot of us involved in bushcare fear the worst".