The Southern Joint Regional Planning Panel has refused an application to rezone two parcels of land at Tura Beach to a B5 zone, to allow bulky goods or other retailing uses.
However the door has not been closed on the possibility that a Bunnings warehouse may be built on the site at the southern intersection of Sapphire Coast Drive and Tura Beach Drive.
The rezoning issue for lots 33 and 34 DP243029 has been on council’s agenda multiple times since 2012 and more recently after the land was purchased by Wesfarmers, the owners of Bunnings, who have shown interest in the site for some time.
Despite council’s support for rezoning the site from 1C Rural Small Holdings to a B5 Business Development Zone on two occasions, NSW Planning refused saying it would not fit in with the “village” community of Tura and that any such development was better suited to Bega.
More recently Wesfarmers asked for a gateway review of the NSW Planning decision.
The five person panel included councillors Jo Dodds and Robyn Bain. Although the panel unanimously agreed that the proposal should not proceed, it recommended that the site be rezoned to R5, something council staff had suggested a couple of years ago. This zoning would still allow a small format Bunnings to be built, subject to height restrictions and building footprint.
The panel said in its view, there was an economic and strategic benefit in allowing the use of the site for a Bunnings facility and added that it was not dissimilar to other uses such as landscape material supplies and plant nurseries that were permitted in the R5 Large Lot Residential zoning just north of the site.
Both Crs Bain and Dodds were pleased with the outcome and both stressed it was a decision about whether the zoning was correct for the area, not about the owner of the land.
“It was important to look at this not through Bunnings’ eyes but as a zoning matter more broadly,” Cr Bain said.
“The R5 zoning for the majority of nearby blocks along Sapphire Coast Drive allows businesses to operate. When we looked at the whole landscape we wanted consistency based on good zoning, not the proprietor. However, we didn’t believe it should be residential,” Cr Bain added.
Cr Dodds said it was about looking at all of the information and finding another way to resolve the problem and added that the panel had consulted extensively.
“Panel members were in the shire for three days and had two days of meetings with representations from different parties. We then had extensive discussion between panel members,” Cr Dodds said.
The panel had presentations from the mayor Kristy McBain and representatives of the Department of Planning and Environment and of Bunnings.
Some of the rezoning issues have come about because the strategic plan for the area was last published in 2006 when Tura Beach was far smaller. Both councillors agreed that strategic planning for the area needed reviewing.
“We’re dealing with the results of previous decisions that were made in a piecemeal way. Now council has a role in providing input for the big strategic plan for the south coast,” Cr Dodds said.
“It has been a plan on a shelf rather than a living document,” Cr Bain said.
“We have committed not to have an ad hoc approach to the shire. We now have three regional centres, Merimbula, including Tura Beach, Bega and Eden and we need to review our regional plans,” Cr Bain added.
For the time being though the zoning issue for the two blocks is back in Bunnings’ hands and the company, as the owner, will have to reapply to council for an R5 zoning.
“Even if it goes back to NSW Planning, it shouldn’t hit a brick wall,” Cr Bain said.