A group of Wickham residents fears Newcastle council is poised to ignore decades of planning by allowing a developer to almost triple the height limit in an area designated as a low-rise "village hub".
Sydney developer Fidem Property Group has applied to change the height limit from 10 to 28 metres on land at 41-47 Throsby Street next door to single-storey houses.
In return for the more generous height limit, the developer would pay for a laneway linking Throsby Street to Furlong Lane.
Neighbour Kirsten Drysdale said the proposed lane was of no benefit to the community but would help the developer.
"They get several extra stories with uninterrupted views to the harbour and great laneway access for their residents. We get a totally inappropriate building in the middle of the village hub," Ms Drysdale said.
"The Wickham community fully supports the redevelopment and increased density in much of the rest of the suburb, where sites have been identified as appropriate for high-rises.
"We don't support this kind of spot planning that totally disregards the years of work and thought that have gone into planning Wickham's renewal."
The council approved a master plan "update" in September which proposed the laneway.
It has also prepared a planning proposal which would give developers density incentives on seven sites in Wickham, including 41-47 Throsby Street, in return for providing "community infrastructure".
The council planning proposal came before the elected council for approval in October, but councillors postponed debate on the matter until next year.
Ms Drysdale said the council would set a damaging precedent if it granted Fidem's request.
"It will be the first time uplift in return for a community infrastructure incentives policy is implemented," she said.
"It also has relevance for other master plans. Why bother putting all the time and resources into these if they're going to be disregarded?"
Ms Drysdale said she had relied on a Wickham Master Plan map identifying the village hub when she bought her house several years ago.
"We felt confident we were well within the low-rise village hub and wouldn't have a high-rise go up immediately beside us," she said.
That colour-coded 2017 map showed 41 Throsby Street being inside the village hub precinct.
The outline of the village hub was blurry in a published draft of the Wickham Master Plan update in July, then the approved version of the update shows 41 Throsby Street lying just outside the village hub.
Another developer, John Hersee, is building two stand-alone houses at 33 Throsby Street within the 10-metre height limit and cannot understand why the council appears to be encouraging the neighbouring development to go far higher.
"I'm trying to build something nice to fit into the village, but eight to 10 storeys would overshadow the neighbourhood," he said.
"The Wickham village was supposed to stop that."
Lyn Kilby, of community group Great Lifestyle of Wickham, said changing the height limit flew in the face of years of master planning the suburb.
"Why would you do this?" she said. "I know everyone thinks the same.
"We've listened to a lot of people over 30 years. We've talked and walked with every planner from Macquarie Street to central Newcastle and HCCDC and every politician to get this right here.
"It's a village, and who in the world wouldn't want to keep it?"
Fidem spokesman Emmanuel Ghobrial said the company's offer to dedicate and develop part of its land at 47 Throsby Street as a public lane had been independently peer-reviewed.
"Adjacent to our site was a future laneway that required council to acquire private land from 55 Throsby Street and deliver the proposed laneway," he said.
"To help council meet its strategic planning objectives, deliver key community infrastructure as well as be a catalyst for change, we approached council and offered to dedicate a portion of our land on 47 Throsby Street to deliver the proposed laneway at no cost to council.
"The offer considered the site spanning across two precincts and was stepped down in building heights from west to east to accommodate for the transition in heights across neighbouring precincts."
Mr Ghobrial said the planning proposal had helped form the basis for the council's community infrastructure incentives policies and was "entirely representative" of the approach the council had adopted in its WMP.
"It is the first of its kind to be publicly exhibited," he said.
"The approach will encourage and incentivise renewal and development in an area in line with local and state government strategic plans."
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