AFTER substantial community consultation, council will make its decision on a proposed amendment to the Bathurst Regional Local Environmental Plan (LEP), which currently stands in the way of the Bathurst Integrated Medical Centre (BMIC).
The medical centre and associated multi-storey car park was announced publicly in December, 2020 and touted as a boost to the city's medical services.
It would also make use of the former Clancy Motors site at 252 Howick Street, which has largely remained vacant since the car dealership moved to Kelso in 2016.
However, there was a glaring problem with the building proposed: its height.
The six-storey medical centre would stand at a height of 29 metres, while the car park would be four storeys, or 21 metres, high.
Both structures exceed the planning controls, which limit the height of buildings in the Bathurst central business district (CBD) to 12 metres.
Bathurst Regional Council has since received a planning proposal from the proponents of the BIMC, seeking an amendment to the LEP that would increase the height of buildings and floor space ratio controls specifically for the BIMC site.
The planning proposal will be put to council for determination at the December 14 ordinary meeting.
Director of Environmental, Planning and Building Services, Neil Southorn, has recommended that council adopt the amendment to the LEP, as outlined in his report.
Should that occur, the BIMC planning proposal would then be forwarded to the NSW Department of Planning and Environment for gazettal.
In essence, the lengthy draft clause stipulates that the amendment to the building height and floor space ratio are site specific, only applying to that Howick Street site and only for the purpose of erecting buildings and structures for an integrated medical centre and associated car park.
The amendment doesn't automatically approve the proposed medical centre and car park.
"The draft LEP clause as presented seeks to set the parameters by which a future development application will be assessed, particularly to achieve design excellence and to manage movement and place," Mr Southorn said.
"It should not be taken that the future development will not have an impact, it will.
"The LEP clause seeks to mitigate and manage the potential negative impact and just as importantly seeks to ensure that whilst the development will change the landscape of the CBD, that change should seek to contribute positively to the future of the Bathurst CBD."
The presentation and wording of the draft clause are subject to change due to legal reasons, however, Mr Southorn has reassured that the intent would remain the same.
Council drafted the clause after undertaking substantial public consultation so matters raised by the community could be considered.
The planning proposal was exhibited from October 5 to November 2, during which time 217 written submissions were received.
A submission hearing was also conducted on November 14, providing further opportunity for people who lodged a submission to be heard, however attendance was affected by a major flooding event in Bathurst.
Council reviewed all 217 submissions received and, based on their content, deemed that 59 per cent either supported the proposal or were neutral, but not against the proposal to amend the height and floor space ratio planning controls.
The remaining 41 per cent were against it.
At the end of his report, Mr Southorn acknowledged the impact these changes would have, but said it was about managing them carefully.
"This planning proposal is an important decision and is going to be a pivotal one," he said.
"It must be acknowledged that a decision to support the planning proposal will alter the landscape of the CBD. The challenge is to manage that change carefully.
"A decision not to proceed could lead to a loss in investment in the CBD. It could also lead to future decisions to support the easement of height restrictions in the CBD for retailing/business purposes which could have worse consequences for the historic main streets of the CBD."
While the recommendation is to adopt the amendment to the LEP, it will be up to councillors to make the final decision at the upcoming council meeting.
Community members can attend the meeting in person or stream it online via council's YouTube channel.
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