A new proposal to develop a third village at Wollongbar has the plateau community talking.
A new proposal to develop a third village at Wollongbar has the plateau community talking. Contributed

Plan for 3500 homes, hotel, golf course divides community

GRAND plans to develop what is essentially a third village on the Alstonville Plateau have some saying the vision will never get off the ground.

Proponent and plateau resident Gary Bourke has promoted the major plans around the community in recent weeks to build the McLeans Ridges-Wollongbar district that proposes room for up to 3500 homes, a hotel and golf course.

He also wants to create an education precinct by relocating Alstonville's public secondary and primary schools opposite the Wollongbar TAFE site.

Ballina Shire Council's manager of strategic planning, Matthew Wood, said the council had previously considered the development of a third plateau village.

"There is no particular site identified for a third village but further investigation of the idea remains part of council's long term planning policy for the shire," he said.

Mr Wood indicated it would be unlikely Mr Bourke's elaborate vision would come to fruition. He said the proposed land's agricultural and regional significance as well as its existed zoning would not allow for urban development.

More importantly, Mr Wood said Mr Bourke's plan and the scale of it was inconsistent with existing local planning policy and the State Government's North Coast Regional Plan.

But Mr Bourke remained confident that his plan was a viable option, with the proposal floated to the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet about two weeks ago.

Community reaction to the plans has been divided as pamphlets and flyers from Mr Bourke have circulated the plateau.

Alstonville-Wollongbar Chamber of Commerce president Richard Lutze said he would follow the evolution of the proposal, saying "it could be a great development".

He said public reluctance about a third village had shifted in the past 10 years with the influx of young people moving to the area.

But others, like long-time resident Marilyn Perkins, have been critical of the proposal, which she read about in the pamphlet.

Ms Perkins, who is also with the Wollongbar Progress Association, doubted that such a "high density development" would be allowed "in the midst of high-quality farmland".

"I couldn't take it seriously," she said.

While Mr Bourke recognised some in the community may be reluctant to change, he said there was plenty of alternative farm land to grow crops.

He said population growth and the community need for such a development far outweighed preserving the land for farming.

"The people are coming whether we like it or not," Mr Bourke said.

At this stage, Ballina MP Tamara Smith said there were "too many questions" surrounding the logistics of the development concept to support or oppose the idea.

But she said it could present a great opportunity to develop affordable, sustainable housing.

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