The Blue Mountains Conservation Society is calling on the NSW water, property and housing minister to uphold the original decision to reject the commercial lease over Katoomba Airfield, and take the next step to have it incorporated into the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.
Earlier this year, the Department of Planning, Industry and the Environment decided to reject a lease application over the Airfield. The extent of opposition was quoted by the Crown Lands commissioner when rejecting the application by FlyBlue's Derek and Floyd Larsen for a long-term lease over the airstrip for fixed wing and helicopter charter flights.
More than 12,000 people signed a petition which was presented to Parliament by Blue Mountains MP, Trish Doyle, and 1,582 written submissions were made to the department of planning, industry and environment, 85 per cent of which were opposed.
But after the Larsens complained about flaws in the consultation process, a review was ordered. It found that while written submissions had been analysed, verbal input made at community meetings had not been summarised.
"It is understood that the applicants would now be allowed to make additional submissions, yet the community would not be permitted any further input to these," the Conservation Society said in a media release.
"The Society is deeply concerned about the process being adopted over any re-assessment of the decision," explained Tara Cameron, President, Blue Mountains Conservation Society.
"Community opposition to the venture was resounding. If the goal posts are now moved and community voice ignored, the flaws in the process will undermine public confidence in the NSW government's decision-making. It is only a fair process if there is transparency around the decision."
Ms Cameron said any development of the site will impact the threatened species that live close by, destroy the natural quiet and intimacy of the renowned Grand Canyon walk and Grose Valley wilderness, as well as impacting the local community.
"We risk forever ruining our National Park."
A spokesman for the department said: "The department previously advised FlyBlue that its original lease application to operate from the airfield, which included helicopter flights, was not acceptable in its current form, and provided the company with an opportunity to put forward an amended proposal.
"FlyBlue has now submitted ... a concept amendment to its lease application with a proposed greater focus on commercial heli-charter operations rather than heli-tourism and providing further measures addressing noise abatement.
"Prior to the department considering the amended lease application in detail, the department has sought further information from FlyBlue on its revised proposal and how it would meet the requirements of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.
"Once this can be demonstrated, the amended lease proposal for the Katoomba Airfield will be considered in detail and, if supported by the department, will be subject to appropriate further community engagement prior to a final decision being made."