The deadline for public feedback on Cessnock City Council's draft Local Strategic Planning Statement has been extended by three weeks, and a contentious section on dwelling entitlements has been removed from the draft plan to be dealt with at a later date.
The draft plan - which will set out the 20-year vision for land use in the Cessnock local government area - was put on public exhibition on November 27, with the feedback period originally due to finish February 5.
However, due to the Christmas holidays and the recent bushfire crisis, the exhibition period has been extended until February 28.
Cessnock mayor Bob Pynsent said council decided to extend the exhibition period after listening to local residents.
"We know it's been a busy and stressful time for many - not only due to it being the holiday period but due to the bushfires," he said.
"We encourage those who are yet to have their say to take the time to provide feedback.
"Council will also be taking this opportunity to review the draft document to ensure it fully considers planning for environmental impacts into the future, following the catastrophic fire incident over the Christmas period."
Due to a "complexity of concerns" surrounding dwelling entitlements, these matters have been removed from the Local Strategic Planning Statement and will be considered separately at a later date, in order for council to meet the June 30 deadline for the State Government-required document.
Among the primary concerns raised in consultation was the proposal to remove "existing holding" entitlements for a potential dwelling in certain rural zones - a move that, according to Cessnock real estate agent Alan Jurd, could reduce land values by 70 percent.
Under the draft plan, landholders with existing holding provisions in the RU2 Rural Landscape, RU4 Primary Production Small Lot, E2 Environmental Conservation and E3 Environmental Management would have 12 months to apply for a potential dwelling entitlement.
Landholders with dwelling entitlements in these zones would also have 12 months to confirm their entitlements, and will have to obtain development consent within five years if they wish to build upon their land. The dwelling entitlement map will be removed from council's Local Environment Plan a further five years after that.
Mr Jurd said the proposed changes could potentially have a dire effect on land values.
"If your landholding loses its entitlement, it will lose 70 percent of its value," he said.
Mr Jurd also said no time limit should be imposed on these landholders, with some properties being owned by local families for several generations.
Some of the 16-hectare (40-acre) lots in the vineyards district were original Parish allotments, which were granted as far back as the 1800s.
Lots under 40 hectares (100 acres) were determined as "undersized" in the Cessnock City Vineyards District Study, and council's director of planning and environment, Gareth Curtis, said the idea behind the proposed changes is to prevent the further "fragmentation" of viable land for rural industries.
Mr Curtis said council had received a lot of submissions for the Local Strategic Planning Statement, and had good turnouts at 10 community consultation sessions across the local government area.
Once adopted, the Local Strategic Planning Statement will replace the City Wide Settlement Strategy 2010. It will also assist in the implementation of actions set out in the Hunter Regional Plan and the Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Plan, and council's own priorities as set out in the Cessnock Community Strategic Plan.
Council is also running colouring-in and story-writing competitions to get local children involved in the exhibition process, with copies available via council's website.
For more information on the Draft Local Strategic Planning Statement, and to make a submission, visit cessnock.nsw.gov.au/community/exhibition/CessnockLSPS2036.