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Fake Snowfield to be Built on the Penrith Floodplain

Jan 12, 2024

The NSW government has greenlighted a new $400 million hotel and commercial development on the Nepean River flood plain in both a flood storage area and floodway at Jamisontown, Penrith. The development was approved as a project of “State Significance.”

Marketed as “Winter Sports World” – the hotel will sit adjacent to residential homes next to the Nepean River. The imposing structure will transform a 2.4 hectare horse paddock into a 170 room hotel, parking facilities for 600 cars, function centre and restaurants. Additionally the structure will house a 300 metre artificial ski run, ice rink and ice climbing facility. 

Described in marketing documents as a “snow resort” the development will provide a new vista for residents and visitors with lighting and architectural elements to create the appearance of a blizzard and melting glacial ice. The structure will be 54 metres high. 

“The more than 300m northern facade to Jamison Road will glow at night with kinetic lighting giving the appearance of a blizzard, while the public area and curved lower-level facade will look like melting ice,” the press release issued by the developer Peter Magnisalis said.

An artists impression of the hotel.

The Site at 2 Tench Avenue is located within the local Peach Tree Creek catchment and is adjacent to the Nepean River. 

It is impacted by local overland flooding and regional riverine flooding. Jamisontown residents were evacuated during the March 2021 floods. A Flood Impact Risk Assessment (FIRA), commissioned by the developer, found that the site could experience flood depths of 6.5 metres in the event of a probable Maximum Flood (PMF). 

The SES was particularly critical of the development stating that important flood risks and modelling had not been considered in the flood analysis. However the government said it is satisfied concerns raised by the Council, the SES, residents and even the Department about the “significant flood constraints” of the development site have been addressed by the developer and that the development can proceed subject to conditions.

These include; raising the floor height of the development to “address risk to property”; ensuring there is minimal increase in flood height to neighbours upto a 0.2 AEP flood event and the inclusion of a swale to mitigate impact of flood storage and floodway up to an 0.5% AEP regional event. The developer must also maintain and have accessible 3 shuttle buses which carry 24 passengers each in the event of evacuation. It is hoped that most of the 1000 guests will be able to exit using their own cars. [Read the Assessment here: Chapter 6 deals with flooding. ]

An Independent expert engaged by the government to review the developer’s flood report found; the Site has “significant flooding and evacuation challenges, but they can be managed with suitable conditions as long as the latest flood information is incorporated into the design. The proposed recreational use of the site makes it easier than most other uses to manage the evacuation risk.” 

The independent expert also noted in their report that the, yet to be released, “Hawkesbury-Nepean River Flood Study identified by SES could increase the flood risk to the Site.” The development was approved without insight provided by the yet to be released study.

The site is marked by a red cross on the SES Flood Risk Map.

The FlRA found that flood events of 0.2% AEP and rarer are unlikely to have material adverse effects on the surrounding properties compared to the existing flood behaviour. “It is not anticipated to change the flood behaviour in the vicinity of the NSW site as surrounding residential properties are already inundated and are subject to significant damage by flood depths in the order of 2.0+ m under existing condition,” the October 2023 report by Wyndham Prince consultants said.

Many locals objected to the plans stating the development will exacerbate flooding in the area, be an eye-sore, will block out natural light in winter to residential homes and will destroy the amenity of the area.

Magnisalis welcomed the decision which came just 12 months after the DA was lodged. “It’s a huge relief,’’ he said.

“For the first time in eight years, WSW is no longer a pie-in-the-sky dream but a real project and on course to bring the snowfields to Sydney.’’

Other projects currently under consideration by the NSW government under “State Significance” include,  the Parramatta Light Rail (Stage 1), Sydney Modern – Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney Metro and the Inland Rail freight project from Melbourne to Brisbane.

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