News that a proposed wildlife park at Wentworth Falls has been deemed a state significant development has concerned local groups.
The decision removes oversight of the development from council and hands it to an independent planning panel or the NSW planning minister. It qualifies as state significant because it is a tourist-related project with capital investment of more than $100m.
Both the Blue Mountains Conservation Society and the Mountains branch of the National Trust are worried.
Conservation Society president, Tara Cameron, said the site of the proposed zoo and hotel was "highly constrained and many significant environmental issues must be considered in the assessment and approval process".
The DA was approved for a so-called crocodile park back in 1991. Plans to have crocodiles in the zoo were eventually discarded after community pressure.
The Conservation Society said many changes had occurred since 1991, including traffic flow.
"When the original, much less ambitious development was approved 30 years ago, traffic management, including entry and exit to the Great Western Highway, was the critical issue," said Ms Cameron.
"This includes not only vehicles entering and exiting heading west, but those wishing to exit and travel east, including what options are available given the current highway configuration."
Other major concerns were environmental, including stormwater and runoff issues, a significant swamp lying directly downhill, and an established wildlife corridor through the site.
The society also questioned the appropriateness of a zoo within a World Heritage Area. "Visitors come to the Blue Mountains to experience the natural environment, and to enjoy Australian flora and fauna in a natural setting, not caged behind a fence," said Ms Cameron.
Rod Stowe, branch president of the Trust, said: "We don't believe that the preservation of the region's acclaimed natural heritage and legitimate planning controls ... should be subservient to the alleged economic benefits of a particular project."