Mirvac plans to build a new development on the former IBM site at 55 Coonara Avenue, West Pennant Hills are a step closer after approval was given to rezone the land, which backs on to Cumberland State Forest.

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment fast-tracked the process under the Planning Assessment Acceleration Scheme due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It has agreed to amend The Hills Local Environmental Plan 2019 to rezone the land (Lot 61 DP 737386) for medium to high density residential development with a maximum yield of 600 dwellings and to enable the conservation of critically endangered ecological communities.

A statement from Mirvac said it will ensure “the highest possible environmental protection to the forest” and will dedicate over 9ha to the NSW Government as an extension to Cumberland Forest.

Hills Shire Council received more than 4000 letters of objections to the original rezoning proposal and a change.org petition started by Lyndsey Hatchwell has more than 8,500 signatures.

Members of ForestinDanger, a coalition of 12 local community groups, gathered at the site to protest the decision.

Jan Primrose, spokesperson for one of the groups, Protecting Your Suburban Environment Inc said they were “stunned” by the decision.

“The environmental impact on the Commonwealth listed critically endangered Forest alone should have stopped this development from proceeding.

“While there were some minor amendments made during the fast-track approval process, they do not go anywhere near far enough to protect the threatened species.

“In addition to the impact on the critically endangered Forest over 2,000 large mature trees are going to be removed from the site which is a ludicrous number from one site in the heart of suburbia. “

Hills Shire Councillors rejected the move to rezone the area in November last year and wrote to the Minister for Planning requesting the planning proposal not to proceed.

Hills Shire Mayor, Michelle Byrne said the rezoning approval had been a huge disappointment.

“It’s disheartening that when Council has made a decision on a local planning outcome, that this decision can be overturned.”

She said there was a lack of infrastructure in place to support such a development and the knock-on effects it will have with increased demand on local health services, schools, as well as more pressure on local roads and existing recreational and community facilities.

Changes to Mirvac’s proposal have included reduced areas of land to be zoned residential, higher levels of environmental conservation over a larger part of the site and a nine-hectare expansion of the Cumberland State Forest.

A spokesperson for Mirvac said a development application for Mirvac’s proposed masterplan would be submitted to council later this year.

Mirvac’s Development Director, Adrian Checchin, said: “We understand that protecting the forest is a priority for local residents and the wider Sydney community.

“The forest dedication, along with other open space represents almost 65% of the site, most of which will be publicly accessible under our proposed masterplan.

“The masterplan will deliver a family friendly residential community sensitive to its bushland setting, designed to improve housing diversity in the area.”

He said the project will create nearly 1,000 direct jobs over the life of the construction

For more information on Mirvac’s plans visit coonara.mirvac.com

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