State Government approves Cultural and Civic Space DA

The NSW Government has approved an application from Coffs Harbour City Council to build a Cultural and Civic Centre at 23-31 Gordon Street.

Department of Planning, Industry and Environment Executive Director of Regions, Industry and Key Sites Anthea Sargeant said the application to build and operate a new four to seven storey cultural and civic building was approved following rigorous assessment and consideration of community feedback.

An artists view of the proposed CCS in Gordon Street

The decision was made following a detailed economic analysis of the proposal and consideration from Council of other potential locations.

According to the Department, they say that “construction of the new space will create 555 construction jobs and 31 additional operational jobs while injecting $76.5 million into the economy.”

“We have carefully considered the proposal in light of feedback from the community. From a planning and land-use perspective, the proposal is acceptable as it fully complies with existing planning rules on the site and it would not result in any significant amenity or visual impacts on the surrounding area,” Ms Sargeant said.

“While we understand community’s concerns about the cost of the proposal, ultimately this is a matter for council to consider. We did however carefully consider the potential economic impacts on the local area and found it’s unlikely to result in any significant impacts.”

The proposal includes the construction of a four to seven storey building incorporating a regional gallery, central library, regional museum, community spaces, and Council customer service and administration offices and chambers.

Ms Sargeant said the proposal includes more and improved public space, including a link connecting Gordon Street and Riding Lane, as well as a new public square.

“The new regional gallery will have more than three times the space of the current gallery, while the new library will be three times as big as the existing library and the regional museum will double in size,” Ms Sargeant said.

A number of conditions have been imposed on the project to ensure any potential impacts are appropriately managed, including ensuring machinery on the roof is blocked from view, preparation of a traffic management plan and preparation of a flood action plan.

For more information visit

CCO emphasis added above.


I am disappointed, but not surprised, that the Development Application has been approved for the Coffs Harbour Cultural & Civic Space project. It apparently does not meet the criteria for refusal under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

“I do not support this project” – Coffs Harbour MP, Gurmesh Singh. Photo: The ABC

I reiterate that I do not support this project and that the decision to proceed has been made by our elected councillors.

I have often reflected on why this project in particular is so divisive. I can only conclude that there is a general dissatisfaction with the project and the way the council has managed the process to date. The community feedback to my office over the last 18 months has been an overwhelming rejection of this project.

The elected councillors were infamously split 4-4 on the decision to proceed. I urge all councillors, regardless of how they have voted in the past, to reconsider whether this project should go ahead in its current form.


First published at Triple M, Coffs Coast, Monday 30 November 2020. See;

10 thoughts on “State Government approves Cultural and Civic Space DA

  1. I made a comment about Legislation yesterday. This DA was APPROVED according to “The Environment Planning and Assessment Act 1979”. Someone tell me if this is the “legislation”. If it was approved according the “Act 1979” (over 40 years ago)don’t you think its time it was brought up to date based on current circumstances? Apparently all the t’s were crossed and I’s were dotted by those who apparently know the Act ‘like the back of their hand’.

  2. I made a comment about Legislation yesterday. This DA was APPROVED according to “The Environment Planning and Assessment Act 1979”. Someone tell me if this is the “legislation”. If it was approved according the “Act 1979” (over 40 years ago)don’t you think its time it was brought up to date based on current circumstances.

  3. A slight correction to Gurmesh Singh’s statement- the decision to proceed has been made by ONE councillor.
    To say that I am disappointed is an understatement.
    With this current mayor and her casting votes we, the ratepayers, have no chance.

  4. Well it looks like we can kiss goodbye to ever getting our lost’ Entertainment / Town Hall for our grandchildren .

  5. Seizing the moment, I’m selling Muttonbird Island. Anyone want to buy it? Get yourself free access – you can go right over the top!

  6. Well that’s a new figure – another person, in the mix…

    And how can she claim that it fully complies with existing planning rules on the site …when …there is absolutely NO parking on site for patrons, visitors of any type?

    And doesn’t even meet the ratio to floor space with the parking that IS underneath, which is all for council use!

    Plus in an attempt TO MEET the ratio the basement parking under the existing CHCC building is included. Despite the fact that is intended to be sold.

    And surely there was already a traffic plan and a flood management plan sent in with the DA?
    This could easily mean that the ones sent in – if they were – don’t permit approval, Sona new version, with the brief tweaked to elicit a better, more compliant, result.

    Yes I am both sceptical and highly suss on the TRUE reasons and MOTIVES ….of many of the players…

    Here is what I wrote as a comment on the thread of discussion on Gurmesh’s post.
    At that stage I didn’t know what conditions applied, but was sure there would be some.

    On the Dept of Planning’s Major Projects Portal our DA has all our submissions, all the documents CHCC’s staff and the “respond to submissions” report that council engaged a consultant to prepare in order to respond to the over 820 submissions against. (181 pages. Haven’t looked into it – I knew the crap I would see in there would just make me mad”

    Here’s my comment on that thread:
    “The story does NOT end here folks.

    There’s more steps that will come before the council yet.

    For the main thing …. the contract for the final 20% of the design and the construction phase.

    And it only takes one Councillor to start to listen and decide to represent the majority of the community ….. Sally Townley

    Without approval by a MAJORITY of Councillors … the “use of the casting vote” scenarios effectively mean that ONE person has made all decisions.

    Ie our Mayor ….. who consistently refuses to acknowledge there is an “against”
    – as proven, by multiple recorded evidence methods –

    She – and her CCS Project team of 3 – are NOT representing the majority of voters/residents wishes.

    Nor are they doing what Minister Hancock instructed in her speech upon tabling of the approx 15,000 signatures strong petition ….. that being a direct instruction to listen to and work with their community.

    There has already been a contingency Plan B being discussed: crowd funding a challenge.

    However there’s another aspect that no one talks about yet, because most don’t know about how the logical, chronological, progression of such a project works (you might realise that I very much do).

    Or if they do they don’t think ahead. I have been doing so since last July.

    The design phase …. well the first 80%, actually …. is to produce engineering construction plans and it stops at 80% so that tenders can be called.

    The construction companies who want to tender need such documentation to be compiled to that stage in order to be able to accurately cost the work that the contract – for the what is called a “design and construct” project – entails

    Now …. the project has had a quantity surveyor type of costing done to come up with the airy fairy $76.5mill, as far as I can determine – might be wrong on this, it MIGHT have been a bit more extensive and in depth than that.

    CHCC’s brief in calling tenders will see a budget amount to construct to.

    The magic, but as yet not proven as even being possible, figure of $76.5 million.

    So what happens when those tendering … and there were only two for the first stages’ contracts …. do accurate costings based on construction plans, and not on a schematic design. ? ! ? Hmmm????

    I’ll tell you – they may find it impossible to build for the amount of $76.5 mill (all up, across 5 contracts).

    Or even that the true cost would be more like what multiple people with construction to this magnitude experience, knowledge, etc, have been saying …. $100,000 or more.

    So for a tenderer, once they cost the work from 80% complete documents, may find there to be insufficient profit margin ….. and choose not to tender to seek being awarded the job!

    Yes. This. CAN. Happen.

    It was the case with the Sydney Football Stadium as far as I remember from what was on the news.

    The govt hush hushed up all that followed the “early works” – which in that case was the demolition of the stadium to prepare ground for new works.

    The company that carried out the early – demolition – works didn’t want to be considered for being awarded the construction of new stadium contract for the budget allocated to it

    The NSW Govt must have quietly revised the budget amount upward .

    So folks we are a long way from it being “over when the fat lady sings”

    A long way.

    Not only that we don’t have finance arranged.

    And at this point we don’t even know if it is conditional approval with the conditions adding to the cost, or even bring something that can’t be achieved.

    Oh noooo…… we are a long way yet from it being a certainty that anything will be built on OUR property in Gordon St.”
    end of quoting my comment on Gurmesh’s post
    Anyway maybe those in the Dept of Planning, Industry & Environment have done what they have so as to bat ball back into council’s (staff) and our Council’s court expecting they won’t be able to come up with a satisfactory traffic and/or flood management plan?

    ANYthing is possible. But one thing for sure …. so many things like financing the proposal that it’s gonna be quite a while before any clarity as to actual outcome even CAN be guessed at.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if that took until next September?

    What a laugh I had at the bit about the Dept having done “detailed economic analysis”, and no economic impact . Ha!

    More fighting to be done folks. Sad but true. And necessary. (And in the coming months we will have to fight as hard re what “they” … the State Govt …. intend to happen to OUR Foreshores and Harbour precincts. Time for a run n ginger beer. Had hoped for a straight out refusal …and champagne this arvo…. No such luck YET. Hold the line, we WILL win out.

    1. I have some sympathy for Gurmesh because I suspect that, if he’s been arguing our case as it appears he has, he’s been fighting with one hand tied behind his back. In this case, being the holder of a safe seat may well be working against him, since the state government feels that it doesn’t need to risk anything, or even expend energy, by supporting us in our opposition to Knight’s Palace.

      We are due NSW elections in 2023 and the damage is likely to be done by then, and although the Labor opposition hardly inspires confidence, electing them is probably the only way in which we can punish Gladys’ mob for their dereliction. Sadly, that would mean that we’d lose Gurmesh. If only he were an independent.

  7. Appreciate the speech Gurmesh, but with regards this project l feel let down as much by State Government as l do by Local.

  8. Agree Gai this is not over yet. Let’s not forget that out of all the properties that Council have earmarked for sale to provide the bulk of the funding for this project only 1, Rose Ave, has sold for $2.1mil. The museum is unable to be sold and it appears no one wants to pay anywhere near what the Council were hoping for for the remaining three, that’s if they received any offers at all.
    There is a huge hole in the financing of this project in addition to the uncertainty surrounding the real final cost of project build as Gai has pointed out above. The cynic in me feels that this why there is such urgency in the leasing of the airport as they are expecting a BIG initial lease down payment……and remember that the Mayor has said that there will be no rate increase to fund any of this.
    I’m afraid that I suspect otherwise long after she is ejected at the next election……..or that the whole thing falls over because it’s unable to be funded. It’s not over yet people!

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