St Finbar's Glenbrook Parish

Blue Mountains Gazette report on the Springwood Project


St Columba’s subdivision push

By Brenda Cunningham-Lewis

(Read original article at the Blue Mountains Gazette)

A plan to build 50 new homes behind St Thomas Aquinas Primary School and St Columba’s High School in Springwood will be submitted to Blue Mountains City Council at Easter.

Plans for the residential project — on land co-owned by Parramatta and Broken Bay dioceses — was first revealed to Mountains Catholics and some of the teachers at the schools on 4 February.

The proposed land usage for the project is 2.2 per cent of the total land parcel and is already zoned for residential living.

Bishop of Parramatta, Anthony Fisher, visited Springwood’s Bishop Manning Learning Centre at St Thomas Aquinas and told more than 150 clergy, principals, parishioners and school families and staff from the parishes of Katoomba, Lawson, Springwood, Glenbrook and Emu Plains about the proposed new development.

A spokeswoman from the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta told the Blue Mountains Gazette the minimum lot size for the development was 1200 square metres “as per Blue Mountains City Council’s Local Environment Plan ranging to 2000 square metres”.

“The project will comprise 50 residential blocks with a minimum size of 1200 square metres for low-density home building in keeping with the existing use of the area and the nature of this local community,” she said.

“These lots are much bigger than the neighbouring existing house lots.

“There is very little comparable data in relation to other similar developments but under most councils in western Sydney the minimum lot size is about 450 square metres,” she said.

Bishop Fisher said there was 498 hectares (1231 acres) of diocesan land surrounding and including the two Catholic schools.

The total area zoned for development made up 2.2 per cent of the overall site — 11.12 hectares (28 acres), he said.

The diocese plans to release the blocks in three stages.

There will be three access roads into the proposed new subdivision.

All of the roads will be designed or upgraded as per the requirements of council and the Roads and Maritime Services.

Deputy Mayor Mark Greenhill was not aware of the project when called by the Gazette for comment but said if it went ahead it would “hammer Hawkesbury Road”.

Up to 50 homes is what the Gazette understands may be allowable under the LEP.

Clr Greenhill said it could give traction to the $27million wish by council to build a link road from Valley Heights towards Winmalee, bypassing Springwood’s Macquarie Road.

“It would make that link road more important,” he said.

Under the proposed development, St Thomas Aquinas Primary School will maintain its playing field and there will be an additional reserve next to it for shared community use, the diocese spokeswoman said.

“No areas at St Columba’s High School will be affected by the development."

Bishop Fisher said money from the development would go towards Springwood and other parishes in the Blue Mountains including a parish centre for St Thomas Aquinas and a parish hall for St Finbar’s Parish at Glenbrook.

The diocese was also in the middle of a $15 million capital works program at St Columba’s which included removing the demountables, building modern learning spaces equivalent to 18 classrooms and accompanying amenities including a student/staff cafe; refurbishment of the heritage building and the library; and enhancing bushfire protection of the school and surrounding properties.

Attempts in the past to develop the land had been knocked back because they had been “very different to this one,” Bishop Fisher said.

“The former project was very different to this one. The new project will be on larger lots but there will be fewer lots than had been previously proposed.”

Bishop Fisher said the diocese has started a process of community consultation and “all necessary surveys and reports to ensure preservation of any protected flora and fauna and Aboriginal archaeological sites”.

Consultation was underway with local Aboriginal groups and the Aboriginal Land Council and the diocese had provided these groups with due diligence reports around Aboriginal archeological issues relating to the site, he said.

“Appropriate notifications relating to the development of a heritage management strategy for the site had been advertised and four registrations received.”

Bishop Fisher told the community at the February meeting plans were still being finalised, should be lodged at council by Easter and required their help.

“Obviously I need your advice and support to get this off the ground.”

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