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Saturday, 04 February 2023 21:17

Mirvac development – who ‘owns’ the forest?

The Mirvac development of the former IBM business park at West Pennant Hills is proceeding. In September 2021 the application to demolish the existing buildings and remove 1,253 trees was approved. This has now been completed despite a lot of community concern about the disturbance to wildlife during the spring breeding season.

In October 2022 Mirvac’s Concept Development Applications for the next stage of the project came before the Sydney City Central Planning Panel. This involved the technicalities of subdividing the land into sections relating to the various types of building – 252 apartments and 165 medium density houses. Plus the removal of another 1,877 trees. There were many objections to the application for a height variation but the Hills Council had no objection to the apartment buildings being eight storeys instead of the LEP standard of six storeys.

So the concept DA has been approved. The only amendments to the conditions of consent related to protection of the Powerful Owls that have a nest site close to development footprint, use of wildlife friendly fencing and fauna sensitive lighting.

Forest in Danger found a big surprise in the documents submitted with the DAs. The future of the 10.3 ha of high quality forest containing critically endangered Blue Gum High Forest and Sydney Turpentine Ironbark Forest has been the subject of much controversy. The community believed they had a victory when Mirvac agreed to a Voluntary Planning Agreement dedicating the land to Forestry Corporation NSW so it could be managed as part of the Cumberland State Forest next door. This dedication of the land, defined as the Forest Dedication Land, was believed to be a condition of consent to be approved by the Panel.

Low and behold when the documents were submitted with the DA it was found that the Voluntary Planning Agreement dedicated ownership of the land to the minister for planning and would be only ‘managed’ by Forestry Corporation NSW. Not only that, Mirvac could request that the minister approve a change to the boundaries, and that the minister could approve or refuse the request at their absolute discretion and also request a change. So this land is no longer conserved in perpetuity. It appears that Mirvac can sell off some of the Forest Dedication Land. Forest in Danger has sent an objection.