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Proposed new $7m Kurrajong Heights pub set to cater for 300 patrons, with pokies and accommodation

May 24, 2022


There will be room for 300 patrons, underground parking for 75 cars, nine guest cabins, and at least 18 pokies at a planned new $7m pub in Kurrajong Heights, within a stone’s throw of the popular Archibald public house and smack bang in the middle of the historical Hawkesbury precinct.


The plan has been put up by Bella Vista-based Merc Capital Group (MCG) who for some reason seemed to be trying to keep their involvement quiet – they say on their website that owner Tony Merhi, “has been responsible for many successful developments across Sydney and pioneered apartment development in Sydney’s Hills District”.


What is also ringing warning bells for some residents is MCG is planning development at The Islands at Kurrajong Hills, just down the road a bit, though no DA had been put in for that one yet.


Kurrajong Heights locals are holding a public meeting this coming Sunday at Kurrajong Heights Bowling Club to discuss the pub project currently on exhibition at Hawkesbury Council until June 9, though they are hoping that date will be moved to give more time for public submissions.


So far – by Tuesday evening – there were 14 objections listed with Council against the pub planned for 27 Douglas Road, which will feature vehicle access via both Douglas and Warks Hill Roads.


“If this goes ahead our community will not remain the same,” says Jeremy Braithwaite who is one of several Heights’ locals organising the Sunday public meeting, which is on from 5-7pm.


Artist’s impressions of the finished pub. Top row – examples of the cabin accomodation, bottom row – exterior of the main pub


Given the $7m cost of the project, Hawkesbury Council will not be the ones making a decision whether ti goes ahead or not, though they are set to carry out their own investigations and give a report.


Any project over $5m is decided on by the Sydney Western City Planning Panel, an unelected group set up by the state government – typically with five members – who decide whether projects like this get the go-ahead.


“We have a fairly fragile eco system up here,” says Mr Braithwaite who is collating information and has waded through the more than 30 items in the DA. He’s also helping arrange the Sunday public meeting.


“We also already have a pub, the Archibald, which got through Covid at huge cost to the landlord.”


During the Black Summer bushfires, Archibald licensee James Grasso sent 50 free pizzas to RFS volunteers fighting the flames, and the Archie, as it’s called locally, has a fond place in many locals hearts.


Mr Grasso told the Post he wondered how the area could possibly support two pubs.


“The development is not in keeping with the precinct we have up here,” Mr Braithwaite says.


“It will introduce an increase in traffic issues and problems. Our belief is that the parking provision of 75 spaces [in a new basement car park] for 300 patrons plus 20-plus staff is woefully inadequate and that as a result the residents of Kurrajong Heights will end up with this traffic on their streets, and parking across their driveways.”


Meanwhile, The Islands, as described by MCG, sits on “845 hectares of pristine natural vegetation in Kurrajong Hills…The Islands is split into three sites blessed with an array of nature. Separated by creeks, Little Island, Middle Island and Big Island are a natural paradise. The lush landscape provides a retreat and adds to the ‘lungs’ of greater Sydney through the preservation of the dense biodiversity, flora, fauna and ecosystems, whilst reducing temperatures and the climate change effect”.


It’s not clear yet exactly what MCG is going to propose there, but the Islands Estate on Hermitage Rd has a long history of potential development.


Back in 2013, residents heard about a proposal for a 450-lot estate next to their own, due to come before Hawkesbury Council (in those days Council decided on developments but lost that control to the State some years later). The project was voted down.


The current 32-lot housing estate is on what’s called Little Island – there’s also a Middle Island area, and Big Island.


Go back even further, to 1989 – the then Council approved 199 rural residential lots, a 200-room hotel, a country club, equestrian centre, tennis courts, swimming pool, 300-car car-park, a nine-hole golf course, an 18-hole golf course and a clubhouse.


But it never happened – The Islands have changed developer hands several times over the years – and the DA for that potential large investment and build has now expired.


Mr Mehri has said he will talk to the Post about his vision for the Kurrajong Heights pub and plans for The Islands. When we’ve had that chat we’ll report back.


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