Well over 400 residents fill community meeting against Bath St development to the brim, raise 3,400 petition signatures in opposition to council plans

VOICES: Well over 400 residents from Toronto and the surrounding areas packed out the local hall in opposition of Lake Macquarie City Council's planned development at Bath St.
VOICES: Well over 400 residents from Toronto and the surrounding areas packed out the local hall in opposition of Lake Macquarie City Council's planned development at Bath St.

Concerned Toronto residents have called on Lake Macquarie City Council to overturn its plan to build a six storey complex on the foreshore, with well over 400 turning out at a community meeting last week.

The meeting was hosted by the Toronto Foreshore Protection Group (TFPG) was held at Toronto High’s hall, which was filled to the brim with those “keen to hear more about council’s plan for the Bath Street site”.

Bob Ireland, a key figure in the TFPG’s move to stop the Bath Street-Victory Row development, outlined the community’s key concerns in a 30 minute presentation at the event, before the group came to three key resolutions.

The group believes Lake Macquarie City Council has no community mandate to continue with the planned development on Bath St, and has urged council to cease their plans to continue works.

They also called on council to “reclassify and rezone” the area that is set for the multi-storey development, turning it into community parkland instead of a modern tourism building.

“We think that parkland is the most appropriate use for the space that we have been discussing, and we feel if council and the private developer at the other end go ahead this will squeeze the park unnecessarily,” Mr Ireland explained.

He believes the turnout at the community meeting last week shows “clearly” that many in the area are “very against any multi-storey building perched on the foreshore”.

“The general feeling in Toronto is we would love to see the planned improvements to the foreshore park, but we’re dead against having a big building right there at the end,” he said.

“These developments will cater to the needs of some but deny the community access to what should be green space. We already lost plans for a major child’s playground at the other end due to private development, and this would be disappointing.”

Between the packed hall for the community meeting, and the 3,400 signatures gathered by the TFPG in recent weeks, many in the community are of the belief the councillors “got it wrong” when they voted positively for the Bath St development.

Mr Ireland believes councillors have a responsibility to reflect the wishes of their constituents, but feels they “may not be prepared to take this on-board”.

“If they were prepared to take these movements on-board they may have slowed down with it,” he said. “It seems like they’re absolutely determined to have this completed, and they’re not prepared to say ‘if the community wants it dropped’ then they’ll accept that.”

“There’s a lot of mileage ahead of us if there isn’t a change, but we have to make it very clear to council that it’s something that we simply won’t wear. Any further movements will just see more community opposition, and the three and a half thousand signatures and recent commentary show that.

“We have seen a wave of opposition and we’re hoping we can see something change in the near future. It may be the final decision is hammered out in the Land and Environment court.”

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A council spokesperson told Fairfax Media last week $9 million worth of improvements to access and amenities were planned for the foreshore between Goffet Park and Bath St.

She said the development would occupy about 10 per cent of the area, with the remainder earmarked as recreational space.

“It is intended the proposed development will create a destination point at the Bath Street end of the foreshore precinct, with the ground-floor commercial space offering opportunities for businesses such as cafes, restaurants, bars, boutiques or hire outlets,” she said.

“A significant foreshore buffer will be maintained along the front of the proposed building. As part of the current consultation phase, council is also keen to receive feedback from the community on how a building could integrate with the rest of the foreshore.”