Skennars land plan stand-off

There is no sign of an agreement on the future of land at Skennars Head.
There is no sign of an agreement on the future of land at Skennars Head. Jay Cronan

SEVEN hectares of pristine coastal land at Skennars Head is being fiercely protected by its owners, who have refused to dedicate it to Ballina Shire Council because they fear it will be developed.

The Stewart family owns property on both sides of The Coast Rd.

They have plans to rezone the land on the western side of the road and develop it for residential purposes.

But the Stewarts do not want the land on the eastern side to be developed at all because of its environmental significance.

They have repeatedly told the council they will not hand it over.

But at last week's meeting, councillors authorised the general manager to go back to the Stewarts in another attempt to negotiate the land dedication.

The council says it would not develop the eastern land in any way that was inconsistent with the current environmental protection zoning.

But the councillors are also putting pressure on the Stewarts.

They have resolved that rezoning of the Stewarts land on the western side of the road will not start until the eastern land is dedicated to the council.

If there is no agreement, the council says it will stop the rezoning process.

The council also plans to get legal advice on ways it can prevent development on the eastern land into the future.

But general manager Paul Hickey told councillors it was unlikely the Stewarts would agree to the deal.

He says conditional dedication after about 20 years "could" be on the agenda.

"There is just not that level of trust for them to enter into that agreement," Mr Hickey said at the council meeting.

The council's strategic services group manager, Steve Barnier, said the Stewarts could also ask the State Government to acquire the land "on just terms".

"But they have not done that," he said.

"If Dr and Mrs Stewart do not agree to dedicate the eastern land to the council, and the council therefore ceases the rezoning process of the western land, then Dr and Mrs Stewart could ask the (Planning) minister to step in."

Topics:  ballina shire council, paul hickey, skennars head, steve barnier



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