Light Rail and City Planning

The first stage of the Light Rail route was from Broadbeach to Southport through the city’s most densely populated suburbs with unlimited height high-rise development.

Stage 2 continued from Southport to Helensvale through low density suburbs, with apparently no intention of increasing the density along this route.

Stage 3a route from Broadbeach to Burleigh Heads route will be along the Gold Coast Highway which encompasses suburbs with medium and low density areas and some high rise.

Stage 3b is intended to travel through Palm Beach and on to the Gold Coast Airport, though the route is not yet decided.

There is no doubt that the light rail is a popular form of public transport and is preferred to increasing congestion of the roads.  However the introduction of the Light Rail Urban Renewal Overlay into the City Plan has aroused strong feelings in the community about the impact of the potential for high rise along the route on the visual and community amenity of Palm Beach.

Residents have been questioning the plethora of development approvals for high rise along the Gold Coast Highway with relaxations of density, height, setbacks, communal space and parking with no compensating community benefits.  It appears that these approvals are being made in anticipation of the light rail construction which is several years away.  Many of the approved developments have been assessed by Code only so that residents are unable to put in objections.

Gecko sought and was given the opportunity to speak with Senior Planning staff at Council about this situation on 17th December 2018.

Community representatives present were:

  • Lois Levy- Gecko Environment Council,
  • Philip Follent- Tugun Progress Association,
  • Gloria Baker – Bilinga2Border Association,
  • Peter Kershaw- Friends of Currumbin Association, and
  • Sarah Ware – Town Planner.

Council Planning staff included:

  • Ms Alisha Swain, Director Economy Planning and Environment;
  • Ms Amanda Tzannes, Manager City Planning;
  • Mr Mick Moran, Manager City Development;
  • Ms Kelli Adair, Executive Coordinator Strategic Urban and Regional Planning;
  • Ms Nicole Bennett Senior Planning Advisor; and
  • Councillor MacDonald.

It was a frank and cordial discussion about community concerns which included:

  1. Fears of high rise development along the length of the Gold coast Highway, Palm Beach as a result of the light rail, and leading to a canyon effect.
  2. That planning approvals in Palm Beach were to the benefit of the developer with relaxations that were not in accord with community expectations or interests and appeared to be being made in anticipation of the light rail.
  3. Concerns that all the additional people to be accommodated in these high rise buildings would put strain on existing infrastructure including pubic open space, community facilities, water, sewage and roads.
  4. Confusion about whether high-rise development was encouraged in a 400m or 800 m radius of light rail stations or along the whole route.
  5. The status of the Light Rail Urban Renewal Overlay and whether it had primacy over all other City Plan requirements.

The following were the outcomes of this meeting seen from Gecko’s perspective:-

  • Regarding building height and density, the Light Rail Urban Renewal Overlay takes precedence over any zoning of the land and can only be mediated by another overlay (e.g., the Building Height Overlay), the Strategic Framework of the Planning Scheme (for impact assesable development only) or the Regulation.  This means any changes to the Building Height Overlay should be scrutinised very carefully as this is the only instrument that can challenge high-rise development along the entire light rail corridor.
  • That it was not pre-determined that there would be high rise along the whole route and Stage 2 was cited as the example.

No real answer was given to the approval of high rise developments with excessive relaxations in Palm Beach in anticipation of the light rail.  Council officers are apparently attempting to do something creative about finding public open space and other essential infrastructure for all these extra people:

  1. Council planning officers are working on a lot of our concerns.
  2. The Height of Buildings Study will be released to the public at some stage.   There are 4 stages of implementation of this study.
  3. The failure to release the Palm Beach Character Study completed in 2017 appeared to have something to do with Stage 2 and 3 amendments to the City Plan, which are currently with the State Government.

It is evident that further research is needed along with more advocacy by the community to ensure that the amenity of Palm Beach and southern suburbs are not lost as a result of the Light Rail Urban renewal Overlay.

Submissions and letters on city planning:


20180723_ltr_Stephanie_Challen: Petition to Queensland Government. Komune Court document