Proposed cemetery could "destroy" Scenic Hills

Varroville resident Jacqui Kirkby says a 136,000-plot cemetery proposed for the Scenic Hills could destroy the area's environmental and heritage value.

"This is a historically significant area, which needs to be protected and this kind of development is completely inappropriate," Ms Kirkby said.

The Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust held a briefing session for the media yesterday at which Trust Chairman of the Catholic Cemeteries Board Leo McLeay said the organisation was lodging an application with the council for the land to be rezoned.

Mr McLeay said that if the rezoning went through then they would lodge a development application with the council and if that was approved they would purchase the land from the Cornish Group, who currently own it.

"We are doing everything possible to preserve the environment and the heritage of the area," Mr McLeay said.

Ms Kirkby, who owns and lives in Varroville House with husband Peter Gibbs, said the cemetery was like all of the other plans which have been proposed for the Scenic Hills over the years.

"This is just another development, another money-making venture and once the rezoning is done and the development is approved, they will be able to do anything they want," she said.

Varroville House will be completely surrounded by the cemetery and Ms Kirkby said she has been advised by real estate agents that the development of the cemetery will drastically reduce the value of her property.

What do you you think about the cemetery plan? Tell us below.

A spokesman for the trust said it had already received state government consent for the $15 million acquisition of the 113 hectare site for the memorial park, which would have dual use as both a cemetery and community parkland.

The project will consist of five stages, the last of which is to be completed in 2099 and is designed to alleviate south west Sydney's current need for burial space.

Ms Kirkby said they need to apply for rezoning because it was obvious the development wasn't in keeping with the current zoning of the area, which was designed to protect the Scenic Hills.

"They don't care about protecting the environment or the heritage of the area, they only care about buying up the cheapest land they can to make a profit," Ms Kirkby said.

Mr McLeay said the trust had been given multiple interpretations of the area's current zoning. 

He said one interpretation concluded that the area could be used for a cemetery, but another said that it couldn't because it was a commercial operation.

"So we've lodged the application with the council to be on the safe side."

Ms Kirkby said that the plans had been drafted in secret, without any community consultation.

But Mr McLeay said that the Trust was going through the appropriate planning processes and had to decide whether to consult with the council first or the community.

"We want to be as clear and open with the public as possible.

"Now we have spoken with the council, who are the approving authority, we will consult with the community."

The spokesman said that in 2008, all major crown cemeteries reported a shortage of burial space, with all available spaces forecast to be exhausted by 2043. 

"If this shortage is not addressed, all existing burial space in the Macarthur region will be depleted within the next 30 years," he said.

Read more about the proposed development and the community reaction in Tuesday's Advertiser.

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