A development proposal to build 450 homes in Belrose bushland, an area known as Lizard Rock, has moved through to the next stage of approval.
The Sydney panel responsible for considering the Lizard Rock housing development and recommending it to the NSW Department of Planning and Environment has moved the scheme one step closer to a final decision – pending ministerial approval.
It means the entire decision now rests with the new planning minister, Paul Scully.
The Sydney North Strategic Planning Panel stated it undertook an independent review of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council (MLALC) proposal to develop 71 hectares of Belrose bushland and build 450 houses adjacent to Lizard Rock on Morgan Rd, releasing its determination this week.
The panel is chaired by former Liberal leader Peter Debnam, who joins Blake Cansdale, Stephen O’Connor and Graham Brown in granting approval, with Annelise Tuor the only panel member to not approve.
On 6 June the panel determined that it should proceed towards ‘Gateway Determination’ – meaning that the relevant ministers now consider whether the massive housing development should go ahead. If the ministers accede, the proposal is then subject to community consultation, before a final decision is made.
Gateway determination, according to the Department of Planning, means the Planning Minister (Paul Scully) can specify:
- whether the planning proposal is supported to proceed or not
- any necessary technical studies or supporting studies
- whether the planning proposal needs to be amended (and possibly resubmitted to the department) prior to exhibition
- required community consultation
- required consultation with state or federal authorities
- whether a local contributions plan must be exhibited at the same time as the planning proposal
- whether a public hearing is needed
- the timeframes within which the various stages of the process for making of the proposed LEP are to be completed
- whether the council is to be authorised to make the proposed instrument as the local plan-making authority
- any other conditions.
We have requested comment from the Planning Minister’s office.
About the proposal
According to the MLALC website for the Lizard Rock project, “MLALC have a vision for sensitive development of the Lizard Road site, aimed at transforming a land asset into economic, social and cultural opportunities for Aboriginal people.
“A sustainable, resilient and affordable community will be designed with a commitment to respecting and responding to the natural environment and its unique characteristics. A range of lot sizes will enable rocky outcrops, existing trees and landscape features to be retained.”
However, the development scheme, summarised in the NSW Government draft Northern Beaches Aboriginal Land Development Delivery Plan, has attracted widespread criticism from a coalition of community and environmental groups.
It was also a key issue new Wakehurst MP Michael Regan said he would fight against, calling it “outside any good planning principles and not part of our agreed housing targets.”
MLALC has sought to develop the Lizard Rock bushland into suburbia since 2006, which, as well as the estimated 450 houses, includes a shopping precinct, recreation facilities (sports fields, etc) and a community centre.
Then, in May 2009, the NSW Government blocked the MLALC development application at Lizard Rock after the same Planning Assessment Commission reported the predominantly rural area is also a significant bushfire hazard.
Powerlines transmitting thousands of volts of electricity criss-cross the bushland on either side of Morgan Rd, linked to a substation atop the ridge on Ralston Rd.
On 11 January 2018, one of the key reasons the Planning Assessment Commission gave for rejecting MLALC’s 2014 request to rezone and develop another nearby site – at the western end of Ralston Ave, Belrose, just 3.5km from Lizard Rock – was its vulnerability to bushfires.
At the start of 2022, MLALC resubmitted their revised proposal to the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DPIE) for the development scheme, which was open for public comments until a 22 March deadline.
Then, on 22 December 2022, three days before Xmas, the Sydney North Strategic Planning Panel – chaired by former NSW Liberal Party leader Peter Debnam – announced that the MLALC had ‘strategic and site-specific merit’.
Among the conditions the panel requested to arrive at their intermediate approval was:
* The number of dwellings is to be capped at 450;
* 10% Affordable Housing is to be provided;
* The final zoning arrangement and boundaries are to be resolved to maximise the retention of important biodiversity values; and
* A site specific DCP, to guide future development to deliver on the objectives and intended outcomes of the Proposal, is to be finalised in consultation with Council and the Department of Planning and Environment before exhibition of the Planning Proposal.
Who are MLALC?
The MLALC, based in Redfern and formerly known as the Redfern Land Council, is an incorporated body constituted under the 1983 Aboriginal Lands Right Act (ALRA).
ALRA was enacted in June 1983 by the NSW Labor Premier Neville Wran, to provide a way of compensating Aboriginal people for loss of their land since British colonisation of Australia in 1788.
It allowed Aboriginal land councils to seek possession of empty Crown land deemed not necessary for essential public purposes as well as claim freehold title over some Aboriginal reserves.
The MLALC are now one of the largest private land owners on the Northern Beaches. The NSW Department of Planning and the Environment (DPIE) confirm that “The MLALC owns 912ha of land in the Northern Beaches LGA, meaning approximately 70% of its land has not been identified as having potential for other land uses and is not under investigation.
“Of the 9 sites (315.64ha) under consideration by these plans, only 1 site known as Lizard Rock (71ha) site is currently endorsed by MLALC members and the NSW ALC to be actively investigated for land dealing in the short term.”
Lizard Rock is among six primary redevelopment schemes MLALC have in the pipeline for the Northern Beaches Local Government Area (LGA).
Manly Observer previous reporting on Lizard Rock
Northern Beaches Aboriginal Land Development Delivery Plan
Sydney North Planning Panel June 2023 decision (download link)