COUNCILLORS will receive an update on the Islamic cemetery development application at their July 1 planning meeting. Residents will also be given an opportunity to speak before the meeting, during open forum.
Planning director Chris Stewart said the status report arose from resident group concerns regarding the time the DA assessment was taking.
“It has been 12 months since it was lodged and we’re still waiting on the applicant to address (government) agency and community concerns,” he said.
The report will lay down a timeline for the outstanding information. Mr Stewart will recommend the DA be assessed based on the current information if the extra material is not received by that date. Consultants for the Society are yet to formally address road access issues raised by the Roads and Maritime Service (RMS).
Last year the RMS opposed direct access from the Hume Highway, saying it was too dangerous. The applicant has been exploring alternatives ever since.
In addition, the proponents are yet to respond to agencies’ concerns about possible groundwater contamination from burials. Flora and fauna impacts must also be addressed.
Then there’s the overall question of permissibility. The Society maintains it is allowed within the Environmental Management zoning.
Its planning consultant, Richard Smyth told the Post on Friday that access had been the main hold up.
After the RMS rejected the original plan, he unsuccessfully tried to gain Council support to maintain a Crown road to the cemetery. Then Mr Smyth explored the possibility of acquiring a reserve from Crown Lands, only to be told this could take 18 months.
“Council was putting pressure on us to hurry things up so we negotiated purchase of a neighbouring property to put in a road to the prayer hall,” he said.
“An engineer is designing that as part of the modified DA.” Mr Smyth said the new application would be lodged with Council in a few weeks.
Notably, it reduces the size of the prayer hall by one-third to about 1000 square metres, including verandas.
Mr Smyth said the Society had its main prayer hall in Kingsford, Sydney and decided it did not need such a large one “miles away.” The Marulan prayer hall would be mainly used for memorial services. Consultants have also addressed hydrogeology and contamination concerns, burial depths and locations, flora and fauna and fire risk, among other aspects.
Mr Smyth anticipated 20 to 30 burials a year. Previously he told the Post it would be ten. While the current DA described it as a 3500-plot cemetery, on Friday Mr Smyth said the area could accommodate up to 10,000.
He argued there was still great demand for the burial spots, as Sydney’s Rookwood Cemetery was expensive with little available space.
Mr Smyth said the Society was still very much committed to the Marulan development.
“As far as I know, they’re pretty determined. I don’t think they’ll be put off easily,” he said. Pending DA approval, they would likely start straight away. Mayor Geoff Kettle has committed to holding another open forum before Council decides the DA.