Planning at the crossroads

THE fate of a plan seven years in the making for the future of Blacktown City was in the hands of the councillors last night.

An extraordinary meeting was held to hear from residents whose homes will be rezoned by the Blacktown local environmental plan.

The number of affected houses under the revised plan has dropped from the original 488 to 94.

Of those, 57 homes are required for open space, 36 for drainage purposes and one to create an access road for a future state government residential development.

Mayor Len Robinson said the council won't force residents out of their homes but that open space was critical to meet the needs of Blacktown City's growing population.

"We're doing the right thing by planning for the future," he said. "There's more growth in Blacktown than anywhere else in Australia."

Council planning director Glennys James said the revised plan had been well received.

She hoped councillors would adopt the report and not defer until February.

"The minister for planning has said he wants all new [local environmental plans] finished and gazetted by mid next year and any delays would put the plan at risk."

Labor councillor Edmond Atalla's views and feedback he's received from the community about the revised plan were mixed.

"I am pleased council has finally responded to the concerns of the community after a year-long battle to save their homes," he said.

"But I will not support the rezoning of any properties and will fight to have these properties retain their current zonings."

Labor councillors planned to move four amendments before they endorsed the plan.

One was a move for school sites to remain as special purpose (schools), which will be rezoned as residential under the current plan.

"This is a very dangerous move that will give the state government the flexibility to sell public schools or part of schools without the need to go through the process of rezoning and the community consultation," Cr Atalla said.

He has heard from the Bidwill Hotel owner, whose land will be rezoned under the plan.

The hotel can operate as normal but the owner cannot sell the business for that purpose in the future.

■ LATE UPDATE: The 66 homes that were to be acquired for open space were removed from the BLEP at Monday night's extraordinary meeting. It was one of four amendments endorsed by Labor councillors with the support of independent Russ Dickens. Another amendment was in relation to Bidwill Hotel, which can continue operating as a hotel under future owners. Go to stmarysstar.com.au to read the full rundown from last night.

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