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Major Development Belmont Park Knocked Back, For Now

May 10, 2024

The Hawkesbury Local Planning Panel (HLPP) has sent the promoters of the controversial Belmont Park development back to the drawing board, dismissing the proposal as premature with a laundry list of objections including deficiencies about flood access and poor alignment with a range of regional housing policies.

“The Planning Proposal is considered premature pending necessary strategic evaluation at a district and regional level concerning whether further housing development is to occur in North Richmond, particularly in light of flood-related isolation risks,” HLPP said in a Report for Advice issued after its April 18 meeting. The Post has learned that the HLPP took less than an hour to dismiss the proposal.

The overwhelming rejection of the proposal for 1,200 new dwellings at 1, 35, 61 and 63 Grose Vale Rd, Grose Wold was also linked to the lack of medical and other services west of the Hawkesbury River that have particular resonance when the area is cut off by floods.

There are still questions for funding and timing of the new Richmond Bridge and the Grose Vale Bridge. The latter, promised by the developers of the still-expanding Redbank Estate continues to be pushed out on “the never never” according to independent Hawkesbury City Councillor Nathan Zamprogno.

“Concerns remain about the impact on the community during flood events, particularly the isolation caused by the vulnerability of major access routes and the inadequate provision of community and medical services west of the Hawkesbury River,” the HLPP Report said.

Developer’s want to build 1200 houses on the former Darley horse stud.

The Panel’s commentary casts doubt over a raft of other developments that have been publically mooted. There are a number of large acreages and proposed developments west of the river, including Celestino’s proposal to develop Hambledon Park, the old Peel’s Dairy site, on Terrace Road.

The Belmont Park property is owned by E & D Kavanagh Nominees Pty Ltd, whose address is listed as care of Southern Summit Advisory, a Cronulla-based accounting and advisory firm. Eugene Kavangh is listed as the sole director and shareholder. Eugene & Debbie Kavanagh reside at Grose River Road. Records show that Kavanagh purchased the land in 2015 for just over $9 million from thoroughbred breeding and racing group Godolphin, but the sale was not officially announced until 2021.

The Kavanaghs’ development partners are listed as Bondi Beachside SEED Projects and Pyrmont-based Urbaco. In 2021, at the same time that they began discussions with Hawkesbury City Council and other authorities, documents show that the Kavanaghs lodged a detailed objection to plans for the redevelopment of neighbouring St John of God Hospital site.

“Residents have been right to be concerned about developers buying up large tranches of land west of the river and then agitating, both to Council and to the State Government, for huge projects to be approved,” Cr Zamprogno told the Post.

 “They collectively seek to increase the number of houses around North Richmond and up both Grose Vale and Bells Line of Roads by more than eight thousand dwellings, over and top of what is happening at Redbank.” 

One of the policies that the Planning Panel cited was the Metropolitan Rural Area (MRA) framework, which acts as a bulwark against the further loss of agricultural, equine and open space on Sydney’s fringes. 

Last year, developer lobby group Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) called for the MRA policy to be revoked.

“Removing that protection and potentially opening the floodgates to inappropriate development,” Cr Zamprogno said.

The Local Planning Panel is overseen by Hawkesbury City Council but its membership consists of independent experts and community representatives selected by Council through a nominations process.  Planning Panel member who adjudicated on the Belmont Park proposal were: Alternate Chair Stephen Leathley, Expert Panel Members Wayne Carter and Elizabeth Kinkade and Community Representative Michael Edwards.

HCC recently issued its three-yearly call for nominations to refresh the Planning Panel.

“The election in September will be a referendum about the Hawkesbury’s future,” Cr Zamprogno said. “To preserve our rural outlook, Council has to stand strong against inappropriate developments of this type. Developers have bought this land at a premium, expecting they can drive approvals through one way or the other. My view is that it’s the people of the Hawkesbury who decide what we want our city to look like.”

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