The objectives of this campaign is to amend the Planning Act 2016 so that the interests of the community are paramount over those of the development industry. A performance based planning system basically allows a developer to apply to build as he wishes as long as basic requirements of the planning legislation are complied with.
The problem has arisen that these requirements are so vague that they can be interpreted in many ways and experience has shown that the interpretations by those assessing applications favour the developer over the community interests. There has also been a situation, now remedied to some extent by the Belcarra reforms, where the elected councillors making the final planning decisions appear to have been beholden to developer donations for the councillor’s election campaign.
There are also councillors who see development with few restrictions as the only way the economy can grow and concepts of community interest and sustainability are discarded.
Community Networking to address issues common to many community organisations is an effective method of gaining the attention of Local and State Government. As both planning reform and reform of local government are issues of mutual concern, community networking has become a major focus of the Gecko campaign team and both the Community Alliance and the SEQ Alliance are expressions of the success of this strategy.
The focus on planning reform is aimed at protection of the natural environment and improving the sustainability of the built environment, particularly the protection of public open space.
Gecko also participates wherever possible in community events to network and inform the community of our work.
Community Alliance: The Community Alliance, established in early 2017 is made up of about 17 groups which meets monthly and is growing in confidence and strength and Gecko acts as the Secretariat for these groups. The main focus is planning and local government reform, however members are assisting each other with specific campaigns. A Facebook page is being developed.
The SEQ Alliance was established by Gecko in February 2018 and meets monthly in Brisbane with representatives from SEQ groups Gecko, EDO, SCEC, OSCAR, Redlands 2030, Brisbane Residents Group, Ipswich Residents, and UNAA. The focus is on local government reform and planning reform.
Excessive relaxations of City Plan conditions: Both the Community Alliance and the SEQ Alliance are addressing the ongoing concern by many throughout the city and south east Queensland about excessive relaxations of City Plan conditions on development applications without any community benefit or consideration of the cumulative impact. There are numerous examples documented of these relaxations.
The SEQ Alliance has put in submissions to the Minister for Planning, had an interview with his Senior Policy Advisor (see below for documents relating to this contact) and put up an e-petition on the Government website requesting planning legislation returns to a more prescriptive form which recognises community rather than developer needs, https://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/work-of-assembly/petitions/petition-details?id=2989. This E-Petition closes on 27/2/2019.
Gecko is still waiting on a meaningful response to these communications with the Department of Planning.
Gold Coast planning woes: Major planning concerns for the Gold Coast are developments where excessive relaxation in height, density, parking, communal space and setbacks occur regularly in koala habitat, particularly in the northern growth corridor, Komune, Songcheng, Ridong and Environtech as well as Palm Beach and other areas where relaxation in height, density, parking, communal space and setbacks occur regularly.
Komune Development Proposal at Greenmount Beach is a good example of the planning problems the community has with both the City Plan and those making planning application assessment decisions. In this case local residents were able to take the matter to the Planning and Environment Court to achieve justice, but in most cases residents do not have the financial capacity to do this when they believe that the City Plan requirements have not been followed.
This proposal was for a 27 storey building in a 10 storey height zone, with large podium that had no setbacks from the boundaries resulting in 99% site coverage when 50% is permitted, 3 times the allowed density and a significant shortfall in parking spaces. This was justified on the basis that high rise was good for the local economy and that the light rail would extend to Coolangatta and increased density was encouraged along the route.
The neighbours in the Lindor Units objected and took the case to the Planning and Environment Court once the Gold Coast City Council had approved the application.
In a curious twist, just prior to the court hearing, Council received independent planning advice that the original decision to approve could not be justified and Council reversed its decision. As a result Council joined with the Lindor objectors in opposing the development in court.
After nearly 9 months of deliberation Judge Rackeman upheld Council’s refusal and found for the appellants.
Part of his judgement was based on a Brisbane case that community interest must be considered and that there was no economic argument in favour. In his decision Judge Rackeman found “..the proposed development would diminish the sense of place and take away from the natural beauty of Greenmount Headland.” And “I do not consider that there are sufficient grounds to justify approval notwithstanding the conflict with the 2003 Planning Scheme and I consider that the 2016 Planning Scheme, with which there is also significant conflict, should be given substantial weight,”
Rally at Greenmount
The community rally was about a proposal to build a 27 storey building in a 10 storey height zone, with large podium that had no setbacks from the boundaries resulting in 99% site coverage when 50% is permitted, 3 times the allowed density and a significant shortfall in parking spaces. This was justified on the basis that high rise was good for the local economy and that the light rail would extend to Coolangatta and increased density was encouraged along the route.