Mediation fails, court hearing next step over Leura development

Proposed development for vacant site on the highway near the Leura roundabout.
Proposed development for vacant site on the highway near the Leura roundabout.

A conciliation conference over a controversial Leura development has failed, with the case now set to go to the Land and Environment Court.

The proposed development on the corner of the highway and Leura Mall met with resistance when the DA was on public exhibition last year.

Concerns included its size (too big), traffic problems, parking issues and flood risks. And many complained that the design was incompatible with the heritage look of Leura.

Council staff had recommended the application be withdrawn because of significant planning issues, including excessive bulk and scale and insufficient landscaping.


Drawings for planned development at the top of Leura Mall.

Drawings for planned development at the top of Leura Mall.

But the would-be developer took the matter to the Land and Environment Court. Last week, Commissioner Timothy Horton conducted an on-site mediation.

He heard from six residents, including Cr Kerry Brown and Rod Stowe, president of the Blue Mountains branch of the National Trust.

Mr Stowe said the trust was very worried that the proposed design was not in keeping with the village.

"Clearly what makes the village of Leura unique is its collection of federation and more modern, sympathetically designed residential and commercial buildings," Mr Stowe told the commissioner.

"Regrettably, there is little in the design of the current proposal that can be accurately described as resembling the visual appearance of these heritage buildings."

The vacant land at Leura.

The vacant land at Leura.

In fact, he said, the planned development looked just like any other unit building in the greater Sydney area.

"Contrary to the proponent's claim that 'the proposal will promote the economic use of this land for the benefit of Leura and tourism of the Upper Blue Mountains', we believe that the opposite effect is more likely to be the case," Mr Stowe said. "This is because it is acknowledged that visitors and tourists are attracted to Leura by the unique heritage character of the village's commercial precinct ...and surrounding residential streets."

Cr Kerry Brown said she thought the development was too big and too ugly.

Waiting for mediation to start: The developer's party on the left, council and residents on the right.

Waiting for mediation to start: The developer's party on the left, council and residents on the right.

"It is at the entry to Leura's state heritage-listed town centre and would block the views to the world heritage-listed national park, undermining the very reasons people choose to live here and to visit.

"The site is currently used as an impromptu car park. Replacing that with 34 dwellings and at least as many more vehicles will exacerbate the traffic congestion in the Mall that is already presenting major challenges for council."

The hearing in the Land and Environment Court is not expected until some time next year.

A council spokeswoman said there had been two previous DAs in relation to the site, with both being withdrawn by the applicant because of concerns identified by council assessment staff.

As well as defending the appeal in the court, council will also continue its usual process and report the matter to the Local Planning Panel, she said.