Proposed amendments to the State Significant Development (SSD) at 89 John Whiteway Drive, Gosford, although welcome, will not address the excessive bulk and scale of the proposal or the substantial loss of vegetation, according to the Community Environment Network (CEN).
“The developer has argued the former quarry on the site has left parts of it ‘denuded and unsightly’ but the loss of 606 trees will have a massive impact on the Gosford ridgeline,” said CEN Executive Member, Mr Gary Chestnut.
“CEN welcomes the key amendments made to the proposal including the reduction in the building height, from between six and 12 storeys back to between five and nine storeys, and the reduction in the number of apartments from 260 to 204,” Mr Chestnut said. “We cannot agree, however, that the impact on vegetation and habitat, let alone amenity, is necessary or desirable.”
“The sheer scale of this development means too many trees need to be sacrificed to make way for the construction footprint (385) and meet the requirements of Planning for Bushfire Protection (221),” he said.
“Of the 830 trees surveyed within the site only 224 trees will be retained.
“A total of 606 trees will be removed, including six trees on neighbouring land at 80 John Whiteway Drive, for the bushfire Asset Protection Zone (APZ) and to accommodate the proposed building layout.”
Of the trees proposed for removal, 86 are medium or large size endemic (native to this area) trees and another 200 are endemic small-size trees. The remainder to be removed are native species not endemic to the site (243), exotic species (74) and three dead trees.
“It is positive that the trees which have been given the highest priority for retention are the large and medium size trees which contribute most to the visual and biodiversity values of the site,” Mr Chestnut said.
“The proposed vegetation management plan and landscaping proposals are also welcome but will not mitigate the loss of 15 Black Wattles, 21 Hickory Wattles, 42 Forest Oaks, 64 Rough-Barked Apples, 12 Grey Ironbarks, 105 Blackbutt, 16 Sydney Blue Gums, nine Cheese Trees, 237 non-endemic Swamp Oak and various other natives,” he said.
“CEN has strong reservations whether it is acceptable that the overall remaining canopy just exceeds the Draft Greener Places Guidelines for 15% canopy in Central Business District (CBD) localities or 25% in medium-to-high-density sites. This site is located on the ridge that connects to Rumbulara Reserve and is key to visual character of the city. We do not believe the unique vegetated landscape of the Gosford City should be measured against CBD or medium-to-high-density sites. This is the Gosford CBD not Chatswood or Hong Kong”.
“Additional trees may be removed where they present an unacceptable safety risk (even though this must be agreed by a qualified Geotechnical Engineer and Ecologist) so the overall number of trees to be lost may be even greater than 606.
“A total of 21 hollows in seven trees are proposed to be removed and will need to be replaced with nest boxes suitable for large possums or gliders, small gliders or parrots and micro bats. So even though no species were found to be impacted by the removal of vegetation these creatures obviously depend on hollows on the site as habitat.
“The APZ will require the management of canopy trees on the site in perpetuity including future tree removal, pruning and planting works.
“It remains to be seen whether or not the retention of selected trees, rocky habitats and managed understorey vegetation within the northern areas of the site or replanting works will result in some connectivity remaining for species with nearby Coastal Open Space System (COSS) reserves,” Mr Chestnut said.
“The proposal still exceeds the maximum building height under the Gosford City Centre SEPP 2018. In fact, the over-reach of this development reinforces CEN’s worst fears about how the Gosford City SEPP will destroy the unique character of Gosford City.
“CEN simply cannot accept that compliance with the height limit is unnecessary or unreasonable or that the revised design delivers an appropriate built form on the site or adequately reduces the visual impacts on the broader area.”