Redland council approves plan to guide development for next decade

PLAN APPROVED: Cr Murray Elliott voted for the plan but not until an amendment saw vegetation clearing laws tightened in rural areas.
PLAN APPROVED: Cr Murray Elliott voted for the plan but not until an amendment saw vegetation clearing laws tightened in rural areas.

REDLANDS’ redrafted city plan has been approved by council after an 11th hour change to toughen vegetation clearing laws on rural properties.

The debate featured feisty words by councillors, complaints of bullying and intimidation and accusations that some councillors changed position at the last moment.

The plan – whose redrafting started under a previous council and has cost almost $3 million – will guide the contentious issue of development in the city for the next decade.

It was approved after an unsuccessful move by Cr Paul Bishop to delay it for more consultation.

The complex plan has been simplified and is about one third the size of the old document and includes state-wide standardised terminology.

Urban boundaries have changed little and places identified for medium density development remain the same.

The plan’s major thrust is to try to fix issues that arose under the previous document, including small housing blocks and ambiguity in development regulations that allowed developers the opportunity to push through unpopular projects.

Protection of vegetation along creek lines – the main corridors for wildlife like koalas – is strengthened and the plan is clearer about what is expected in building design.

The issue of vital remnant eucalypts on development blocks and footpaths which was pushed by the Koala Action Group remains firmly in the too-hard basket, ensuring the future of the district’s koalas remains at risk.

Mayor Karen Williams, who appeared to be out-manoeuvered on a last-minute change to rural vegetation clearing put by Cr Murray Elliott and seconded by Cr Wendy Boglary, said the redraft had started five years ago.

She said the plan had been give an 11-week consultation period, more than twice that required.

She did not know of a more thorough process in her years in council. “If you think five years was a rush job, I’m guilty,’’ she said.

Cr Boglary said the plan did not expand the development footprint but her stand on tree clearing in rural parts of the city was her sticking point.

This raised an objection from Cr Julie Talty, who said it was wrong that such an important change should be made after consultations with the community had already been held.

Cr Paul Gleeson, who had goaded Cr Bishop several times, was brought down a peg when Cr Elliott said: “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to talk while Cr Gleeson is interrupting me.’’

Cr Williams also was forced to ask the public gallery to be quiet after running commentary on debate.

Redlands2030 spokesman Steve MacDonald said the plan seemed not to have responded to community concerns as there were no changes in direction or long term growth outcomes.

“Some effort was made to mitigate the degree of impacts lot size and tree clearing,’’ Mr MacDonald said.

“It is concerning that councillors are putting a lot of weight on their yet to-be-developed major amendment package which came to light at today's meeting.

“I remain concerned about how and why after 15 months, the notification (of the plan being put to a vote) was crashed through in three days.’’

Cr Williams said she was concerned that changes to lot sizes would lead to an increase in the number of townhouses.

This had the potential to produce an imbalance in housing types.

She said the project had been a lesson in compromise and, at the end, councillors had come up with a scheme that was acceptable to most.