The fight to save Kingswood from being inundated by boarding houses has taken an abrupt turn, with Penrith Council issuing the lead objector with a 12-month ban.
Under the new “communication protocol”, Vince Montgomery is prevented from raising the issue of boarding houses with Councillors or counter staff, and any correspondence or contact will be referred to the Public Officer who decides if it warrants a response.
“They’ve gagged me,” a “flabbergasted” Mr Montgomery said.
“I’ve been labelled a pest – I’m fighting for this area.”
The letter, dated March 23, says Mr Montgomery’s representations to Councillors and Council officers have been answered “several times”.
However, Mr Montgomery, who is among a group of vocal Kingswood residents against the ongoing proliferation and clustering of boarding houses in the suburb, said the “tick and flick dance” by politicians and their administrators on submissions and complaints needed to stop.
A Council spokesman said “a communication protocol is used when there have been repeated threats and/or unreasonable persistence to Council and staff over an extended period of time”.
“The protocol is used in only extreme cases as community feedback is a valuable part of Council’s delivery model,” he said.
Penrith Mayor Karen McKeown said Kingswood residents have her “complete empathy”, but boarding houses fall under a State Government planning principle and were “out of Council’s control”.
“We’ve been locked out of the [planning] process completely and it’s just outrageous because we’ve got people making decisions about our area on the panels that don’t even live here,” she said.
“It breaks my heart because we’re elected to do a job and unfortunately we’ve been hamstrung and we’re not allowed to do it.”
A Department of Planning, Industry and Environment spokeswoman said it was aware of the concerns about the number of boarding houses in Kingswood.
“Feedback on this matter is being considered as we work towards finalising the Housing State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP), which will replace existing housing policies to ensure we’re meeting the needs of the community now and into the future,” she said.
“It is expected that the proposed changes to the boarding house provisions as set out in the Housing SEPP EIE will reduce the number of boarding house applications in the area.”
Alena Higgins is the Weekender’s Senior News Reporter, primarily covering courts and Council issues.