Bushland doomed to build more apartments

LANE COVE Council has called on the NSW government to reverse its zoning to allow 2500 new apartments after a consultant's report suggested removing more than 80 per cent of trees in an adjacent reserve to reduce the risk of bushfire.

The council resolved unanimously to write to the federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, and lobby the incoming state government to protect the bushland by reversing an earlier decision by the Department of Planning to rezone a gully of residential housing to allow apartment blocks that the council believes could be up to six storeys.

Plans to permit the blocks of apartments next to Batten Reserve have infuriated the council and residents, some of whom have worked for 40 years to regenerate the patches of littoral rainforest.

''This whole thing is unbelievable. It does not fit with the government's strategy to build near shops and transport,'' said Frances Vissel, the president of the Stringy Bark Creek Residents Association, which has been restoring the bush since 1993.

The battle over the reserve is another flashpoint in the government's campaign to squeeze more people into Sydney by requiring all councils to zone land for medium and high-density development to provide for 40 per cent growth in population over the next 30 years.

The council's general manager, Peter Brown, said the council had worked with the government to find suitable places for developments among the municipality's suburbs but was adamant the areas in dispute were not suitable.

''They wanted to add in this particular area, even though it's not that close to the shops. They insisted,'' he said.

The council was concerned the area was prone to bushfire. The planning department contracted a company called Urbanhorizons, which produced a report this month, Lane Cove Bushfire Accessibility, to assess the risks.

The council's head of open space and urban services, Wayne Rylands, a former traffic engineer, said the report failed to do any serious work on traffic issues in the event of a bushfire emergency and was ''completely unsatisfactory and an insult to the council and Lane Cove community''.

The council was particularly angry about the suggestion the tree canopy in Batten Reserve be reduced ''to between 15 per cent and 30 per cent'', which could lead to 85 per cent of the trees being removed from the reserve and trees elsewhere having branches removed within four metres of the ground.

''These suggestions may satisfy the Rural Fire Service Asset Protection Zones requirements and the needs of developers … but they are ludicrous in the context of what this report was required to investigate,'' Mr Rylands said.

A planning department spokesman defended the site for unit development. He said it contained a Housing NSW estate and was well located to provide for additional housing supply.

It was also alongside a high-frequency bus route, which connected the site with the employment centre of Chatswood and was close to the North Sydney centre, he said.