A controversial development application that was set to appear in the Land and Environment Court on October 14 has been deferred.
The hearing for Winifred West Schools v Wingecarribee Shire Council over the bush accommodation in the Lower Holt area was delayed by Frensham Schools.
The development application was initially heard in Wingecarribee Shire Council on September 9, where it was deferred.
In a letter addressed to the parents, carers, staff, alumni and community members on October 9, Head of Frensham Schools Sarah McGarry said the school had delayed the proceedings to address additional matters raised by Wingecarribee Shire Council concerning bushfires, hydrology, engineering and ecology.
"While these matters had been identified earlier and resolved to the satisfaction of the council's officers who recommended approval of the DA, we were notified over the last few weeks that the council sought more information," she said.
"We have engaged additional experts, such as a soil scientist, to provide independent analysis on these matters.
"As a result of the delay in legal proceedings, the case will not proceed to a hearing next week. We will update you when the hearing dates are rescheduled.
"In the meantime, we will continue to work with the council on their identified matters."
Ms McGarry said the school aimed to gain approval for a development application that found a balance between the school's education commitments and long-held environmental ethos and values.
"We will also continue to review the feedback from our recently convened Information Sessions which were attended by more than 200 members of the community," she said.
"The report produced following these sessions can be accessed via this link. We have already taken two steps based on suggestions provided by participants to those Information Sessions.
"We have commenced discussions with Dr Ian Wright from the University of Western Sydney to explore our approach to the waterways in the area as part of his scientific research. He will provide additional depth to the analysis already undertaken as he has particular expertise around the Nattai waterway.
"In response to the volume of questions around the RFS requirements, the school has engaged bushfire experts to provide more detail around the fire trail construction and specifics around their removal.
"We are grateful for those suggestions and thank participants for the constructive feedback. If you would like additional information about the project or be placed on our updates list please visit the Master Plan page of our website, register your interest by clicking here, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org."
In a statement posted online, community organisation group WinZero said more than 2400 residents across the Southern Highlands had signed a petition to ask the Board of Governors to move the location of the proposed development.
"Opposition to this building project proposed on a portion of Frensham School's undisturbed land known as the Lower Holt has seen many members of the school's own 'family' join WinZero in a campaign to prevent building on that site," the statement read.
"The Lower Holt is central to a vital waterway, is part of a wildlife corridor with a viable wildlife colony and contains significant remnant natural vegetation.
"The Upper and Lower Holt on the Frensham grounds, are recognised by water authorities as important filters to protect and enhance the quality of run-off water as it enters the Nattai River system."
WinZero said it was notable that no local ecologist, environmentalist or wildlife carer supported the development in its present location.
"One of the major points of disagreement between Frensham and the community has been the role of the wildlife carer who has rehabilitated many native animals on the site," they said.
"This program has been undertaken not only with the approval of the school but as an important part of its well-promoted environment program."
WinZero said that urgent awareness of the need for best practice management of all remnant natural bushland places was imperative.
"People represented in the WinZero campaign remain hopeful that Frensham will join the community in addressing complex issues of mutual concern to achieve the best possible outcome for management of the precious environment we share in Wingecarribee Shire," they said.
"If anyone would like more information on the above, please call Clive West at 0427 808 967 email on email@example.com."
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