Following extensive negotiations with the developer and over 1,500 public objections, Gosford Council refused a contentious proposal to redevelop the Avoca Beach Theatre at its Tuesday, June 9 ordinary meeting.
The proposal had sought to add four cinemas to the site as well as a cafe and gallery, five residential units and basement car parking.
Gosford mayor, Cr Lawrie McKinna said despite Council’s best efforts to try and make the redevelopment workable, in the end it was refused for a number of reasons.
“The planning assessment looked very closely at all the community’s feedback and gave the applicant many chances to provide more information about any issues or amend the proposal as well,” Cr McKinna said.
“Given the proposal’s excessive size and height, there were major concerns it would see the site become overdeveloped, which would just not fit with the local area’s character.
“Plus, for us to approve this redevelopment, especially considering the amount of public opposition, would not have been in the community’s best interests.
“Although we received well over 1,500 individual letters and signatures objecting to this proposal, it’s important to acknowledge that we also received around 800 individual letters and signatures supporting it.
“But ultimately the site’s flooding risks were too significant to ignore, especially for this proposal. “With the site located in an existing floodway, the proposed vehicle access and basement car parking for the redevelopment posed serious public safety risks if the site flooded,” he said.
In March 2015, the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage advised Gosford Council that the NSW Minister for Heritage, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of NSW, had made an Interim Heritage Order over the site.
The Interim Heritage Order meant Council had limited power to determine the current application without the concurrence of the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.
“I would like to sincerely thank every resident for their comments and feedback on this proposal, and patience while we assessed the application,” Cr McKinna said.
“I’d also like to thank the Council staff and developer for their efforts in trying to see whether this redevelopment could be delivered in a more suitable and acceptable way.”
The owner of the Avoca Theatre, Mr Norman Hunter addressed the ordinary meeting prior to the Council’s decision to refuse the development proposal. Mr Hunter said he believed all the concerns relating to vehicular access, seating capacity and floor imprint had been addressed.
He said amended plans had been lodged but they were not the plans contained in the report to the council meeting.
“Please remember the theatre is important to the Central Coast and the challenge for us all is to find a way forward for this significant cultural facility for the Central Coast,” Mr Hunter said.
Cr Gabby Bowles said it was with a heavy heart she moved the motion for refusal and thanked both the Hunters for the work they had put in and the community for its input.
“The reasons I cannot support a further deferral are that there are other issues in the report that the current application doesn’t address,” Cr Bowles said.
She said she could not get past the bulk and scale of the development proposed considering its dominant position in the Avoca bowl.
“I do think there is a potential to find an outcome that would see this theatre grow but I think it is time that we now make a decision on what is before us,” she said.
Cr Hilary Morris said she would support the refusal because Council needed to do flood mediation work and she was concerned about the height of the proposed development and its impact on residents.
Cr Deanna Bocking said she wished to move that council meet the proponents once the interim heritage order was resolved should they wish to continue with a development on the site.
Cr Vicki Scott said the Avoca Theatre development application had be the worst she had dealt with in her 12 years as a councillor in terms of it being the most complicated.
“In dealing with DAs we have to determine by the planning legislation,’ Cr Scott said.
“It is not our concern whether the Hunters have a viable business, whether one or five screens, whether the lawn survives, so long as the DA complies,” she said.
“Also it is not our concern that the theatre is iconic or that the Hunters and the theatre may not survive refusal of the DA because all council can make its decision on is whether or not the DA complies.”
Cr Scott said she would vote against the motion to refuse the development application because: “I don’t feel that I have enough understanding or enough information, believe it or not, to decide whether I want to vote with the refusal.”
“I do hope that is not an end to this theatre or to the Hunter’s vision for the theatre and the role it can play in the future,” Cr Bowles concluded before counsellors voted to refuse the development application.
“Hopefully the Hunters will see fit that there is a way forward and will see this theatre thriving on into the future for our children and our children’s children,” she said.
9 June 2015
Gosford Council media
Notes from General
9 June 2015
Jackie Pearson, journalist