Up The Creek

The development angering residents of Calabash Bay

High up in Berowra Creek, Hornsby Council is considering a Development Application for a local landowner to move three landlocked lots  held up on a ridge above Calabash Bay, down to the foreshore for homes to be built.

It’s a scheme that has angered locals including the seven houses currently at Calabash Bay who say the delicate eco-balance of the area including designated wetlands under Environmental Protections, will be decimated. Local councillor Nathan Tilbury has dubbed it as “inappropriate” and “overdevelopment”.

Calabash is a pristine area of the Hawkesbury River so remote it takes 25 minutes in a boat to get there from Berowra. The Bay is a regular spot for canoeists and campers wanting to escape city bustle. The waterway which also features precious mangroves and fisheries, is divided by a sandbank and the only access route for residents and bay users.

Adjacent to the sandbank sits the parcel of land on which the controversial DA has been lodged – to place the lots side by side in four parcels of land which are double existing frontage sizes, along the river frontage in a “boundary readjustment”.

“These are contrary to the Council’s Plan of Management for Berowra Waters which states there will be not further subdivision less than 40 hectares,” said Lee Kemp, Chair of the Association for Berowra Creek.

“To build homes on these lots it’s proposed two pontoons and jetties would be built halfway into the bay because the water is so shallow where tinnies carrying building materials could moor, as there are no roads to transport materials in.

“Yet because it’s tidal and the water drops to 300mm at low tides throughout the day, this makes development appear unfeasible as you won’t get boats across.”

Another resident Sharon Howarth added: “There’s seagrass there that’s meant to be a protected marine environment and tinnys going across it would destroy this, though council has denied its existence. This increased water activity would also obstruct the flow of fish up the river and impede other users.”

A vote at council in September was stopped due to a last minute legal challenge which Council is currently considering.

In the latest twist in this four year saga, in early October Hornsby councillors and officers travelled up the Hawkesbury River in boats to ‘discuss the impacts of the proposed subdivision on the environment and character of the river settlement’ said a council spokesman.

While the development contravenes current planning laws, Calabash resident and architect Jill Gleave said on the resident’s ‘Save Calabash Bay’ Facebook page that ‘the DA is being assessed under the Local Environmental Plan 1994 because it was lodged just 17 days before the LEP 2013 was gazetted.

‘Many residents believe the additional development on this wetlands boundary will result in unmanageable environmental stress on the wetlands and river system and unnecessarily introduce buildings into a pristine and uniquely beautiful area,’ she said.

Cllr Nathan Tilbury added that he and fellow councilors were obliged to consider the application under the LEP at the time of initial lodgement. But he added that “the impact on the community is too big and the infrastructure – waste, parking and water is already at capacity so to put four more houses in is going to have a negative impact and result in overdevelopment.”

Stephen Berry who represents the landowners and is the DA applicant, said there would be no dredging as hydrographic surveys “showed access compliance 99% of the time.” He added that at least one of the dwellings would be a low-slung eco-friendly home that won’t need connecting to the grid or water and that there was an absence of seagrass adjoining the sites in question.

“What we have here is a case of nimbyism. The owners have sought to address the concerns of the RMS, fire services and council all along, and the environmental concerns are ill-founded.”

The DA was due to go before a Council vote once more, on December 14.

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