Developer wins fight to clear Mount Gilead of trees and dams

Passionate protest: Locals opposed to plans for a giant housing estate at Mount Gilead rally outside Campbelltown Council: Picture Jeff McGill.
Passionate protest: Locals opposed to plans for a giant housing estate at Mount Gilead rally outside Campbelltown Council: Picture Jeff McGill.

Developer Lendlease has received permission to remove trees and de-water dams at the historic Mount Gilead farming property south of Rosemeadow.

The farmland on the western side of Appin Road was rezoned last year and is earmarked for a new 1700-home housing estate.

In a document made public this afternoon (Friday), the four-member Campbelltown Local Planning Panel effectively authorised bulldozers and work crews to enter the site, dismissing the concerns of locals who argued that approval was premature because a development application for the proposed estate had yet to be assessed, let alone approved.

"In the Panel's opinion there are no grounds to justify refusal of the application," the document said.

Placard-holding residents and environmentalists staged a small but passionate protest outside Campbelltown Council's office on Wednesday hoping to convince planning panel members to reject the tree removal and dam de-watering application.

They called on Lendlease to embrace water sensitive urban design and retain Mount Gilead's trees and dams.

Protest participant and Georges River environmentalist Sharyn Cullis said other developers were keeping water in the landscape.

"It cools the land, it provides habitat for wildlife and is visually attractive," she said.

"The housing estate that Lendlease has planned for this site will be hot, arid and waterless."

Protest organiser and Appin resident Sue Gay reacted with dismay when told by The Advertiser that clearing of the site had been given the green light.

"I guess then we'll have to look at applying for an injunction," she said.

"There are many problems with this proposed housing estate that remain unresolved - there's water supply issues, sewerage and bushfire concerns just for starters," she said.

"There are so many inconsistencies at state and local levels on planning matters and the processes are all wrong."

The Planning Panel report said provision of water and sewerage services to the site "would be the subject of future arrangements between the applicant and Sydney Water" and it was satisfied such matters did not warrant refusal of an earthworks application.

The Planning Panel also stipulated that Lendlease take measures to ensure that any wildlife inhabiting the dams or neighbouring surrounds be "treated humanely and relocated" before development activities start.

"A qualified ecologist or wildlife carer is required to be present throughout the de-watering activities to relocate fauna or take fauna into care where appropriate" the approval document stated.

Ms Cullis however was unimpressed with this consent condition.

"It's a token gesture, just one small concession," she said.

"If they remove all the dams, where exactly will they take the turtles? They will be no habitat left."