No decision on Scenic Hills cemetery yet

Several people opposed to the proposed Scenic Hills cemetery. Picture: Chris Lane
Several people opposed to the proposed Scenic Hills cemetery. Picture: Chris Lane

After four hours listening to verbal submissions and asking questions, the Joint Regional Planning Panel did not make a decision on the fate of the Scenic Hills tonight.

The public meeting had been touted as the night of the official decision to approve or reject a proposed 136,000 plot cemetery in the Scenic Hills, the natural land buffer separating Campbelltown from Liverpool and Camden.

But, to the shock and disappointment of those in attendance, the five-person panel decided not to hand down their finding on the night and could not provide a definitive time that the decision could be expected.

Head of the Scenic Hills Association – and owner of the historic Varroville House around which the cemetery is proposed to be built – Jacqui Kirkby was stunned by the lack of decision.

“I was told a decision was being made tonight,” she said.

“We all thought it would happen tonight.”

The meeting was attended by dozens of people opposed to the development and a select number of supporters.

So big was the number of interested residents that close to 20 people were forced to wait downstairs at the Campbelltown Council building as the council chambers – where the JRPP meeting was held – had reached capacity.

The panel heard from 18 speakers – who were asked to keep their thoughts to three minutes, though the request was largely ignored – and representatives of the proponents, the Catholic Metropolitan Cemetries Trust.

Of the 18 speakers (including a letter read aloud from someone who could not make the meeting in person), 17 were against the development and just one was in favour.

Those against included Macquarie Fields MP Anoulack Chanthivong (who has passionately fought the development), Campbelltown councillors George Brticevic and Meg Oates, Ms Kirkby, her husband Peter Gibbs, representatives of the Carmelite Monastery and a Campbelltown Council spokesman, among others.

The one, non-CMCT-related speaker in favour of the development was Peter Thompson, whose family formerly owned Varroville House and currently owns St Andrews House.

The panel questioned the chairman and CEO of CMCT and the director of town planning of Urbis, which was hired by the trust to complete an impact study into the site.

They also questioned at length a number of experts in different fields who worked on the impact study, including a traffic specialist, architect, visual impact expert and others.

The chair of the panel told the gallery and proponents that the JRPP had been given “much to think about” and they would take some time to thoroughly consider the submissions before making their decision.

No timeline was given for that decision, other than it would not be handed down tonight.

The decision, when made, will be listed on the JRPP website and the proponents will be emailed.