NSW Planning Minister Tony Kelly has revealed that changes have been made to the Lower Hunter Regional Strategy and that the government expects new proposals to be re-lodged for controversial housing developments at Catherine Hill Bay and Huntlee in the "coming months".
Mr Kelly stated that amendments to the Lower Hunter Regional Strategy have removed memorandums of understanding (MOUs) that were negotiated with developers, described by the Land and Environment Court as "land bribes". Under the memorandums, the developers agreed to donate conservation land they owned to the state government as part of a deal that would allow them to develop the remaining land. This included 600 houses at Catherine Hill Bay and a $1.8 billion residential development at Huntlee, with nearly 8000 homes.
These proposals, and others, did not proceed, after resident action groups took court action. The basis of the challenge being that there was bias on the part of then Planning Minister Frank Sartor. Last year, the Land and Environment Court agreed and found that Mr Sartor's decision was affected by a reasonable apprehension of bias and the development decisions were ruled invalid.
In announcing the amendments, Mr Kelly said that the "existing regional strategy, independently of those MOUs and deeds, continues to provide a clear basis for all sites in the strategy to be considered on their merits and assessed according to law."
The strategy plans for a projected population growth of 160,000 people over the next 20 years, plus an additional 66,000 new jobs and 115,000 new dwellings.
Minister for the Hunter, Jodi McKay, said the Lower Hunter Regional Strategy "had to date supported housing, employment and environmental gains" and that the strategy provides "a clear framework for housing, employment growth and environmental protection".