empowerment Fernhill - EDO NSW

Protecting heritage-listed and critically endangered woodland

We are environmental and planning lawyers. We empower communities to identify unlawful behaviour, to challenge unwelcome or unhealthy developments and navigate their way through a planning system that can be confusing and intimidating.

Here is the story of the Fernhill estate, as told in our Annual Report 2017-2018:


Fernhill estate: giddy photography www.giddy.net.au

Some years ago we received a call on our Advice line from a resident of Mulgoa (in far western Sydney) deeply concerned about a proposal to subdivide and develop the state-heritage-listed Fernhill Estate for residential housing.

Fernhill is not just a historically significant homestead; the extensive estate comprises critically endangered woodland and supports numerous threatened species, including koalas. It also contains sites of Aboriginal cultural significance.

Our Outreach team held a workshop to help the community understand the assessment process and pointed out some potential problems with the development application that provided a clear basis for refusal. We also wrote to the local council and expressed the view that the development application could not be lawfully approved in its current state.

Over the next few years, the application was withdrawn, reworked and resubmitted several times. Each time we were able to help our client respond. In the meantime, they tirelessly and tenaciously campaigned for the land to be purchased and reserved for public use.

In 2018, when the developer chose to sell the land, the NSW Government took the opportunity to purchase it for the people of NSW. This should ensure the Fernhill Estate, with its irreplaceable natural and cultural features, will be preserved in perpetuity.

Our aim was to prevent inappropriate development that would impact significantly on both Fernhill and Mulgoa. Mulgoa is a unique area, rich in scenic beauty, biodiversity, history and adjacent to the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. We believe it is important for Fernhill to be conserved for future generations. Our sincere appreciation goes to the EDO for their legal expertise, community engagement and incredible ongoing support. They contributed enormously to a great result for the public and future generations.

Sandra Newham, Fernhill Estate client

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