Imagine if a property speculator buys the house next door to you in your quiet residential Noosa street and submits a development application to add an extra couple of storeys and turn it into a late-night karaoke bar with street parking. Then you have to spend the next few years spending thousands of dollars, everything you’ve saved, fighting them in the courts.
That’s effectively what cowboy developers do when they buy a property and then submit an application that is significantly outside the Planning Scheme.
These developers decide that the Town Plan that Councils and communities spend years debating and refining simply does not apply to them.
It’s simply not fair that we should all pay the costs of continually protecting our Planning Schemes against attacks by speculators trying to make windfall profits by bulldozing the communities’ own blueprint for development.
That’s why, a year ago, Peregian Beach Community Association began our campaign to get our State Government to listen to residents and Councils as much as developers and their lobbyists, and protect ratepayers from the unfair costs of keeping the wreckers and rent-seekers at bay.
We want two things.
1/. That a second, or subsequent, application to the court by a developer requires the developer to pay the costs of all other parties to the proceedings including Respondents by Election regardless of the outcome.
2. That a developer seeking to vary a Consent Order, besides paying the costs of all other parties to the proceedings, must offer the Council – on behalf of the community – a non-revocable significant community benefit before filing the application in court.
The Wellington Council listened to us and started lobbying the State Government. We are delighted that the new Noosa Council and Mayor Clare Stewart have continued to carry the torch, and this month, at the LGAQ State Conference, all Queensland Councils adopted this as policy.
As Mayor Stewart said; “This effectively means we’ve won the first major battle in reducing the huge cost to ratepayers in defending our planning decisions against claims by developers where an application is in significant conflict with our planning scheme,”
A CASE IN POINT.
The residents of Peregian Beach have watched in frustration and bewilderment for over a decade as Thomco, the developer of the old caravan park site has waged a war of attrition on the community, continually shifting the goal posts as it seeks to cram the site with expensive, off-the-plan apartments instead of visitor accommodation as the Town Plan and the community demand.
This marathon developer assault on the Planning Scheme has cost over a million dollars of ratepayers’ money, and our own community members $40,000 in donated court funds. It has cost millions more if you add the loss to the local economy, the lost visitors, the lost opportunity.
Would this developer have been so committed for so long if it was forced to pay the full court costs of trying to bulldoze the Noosa Plan? We doubt it.
Across Noosa over the past four years, the Council has had an unblemished record of winning each of the 34 court appeals by developers, but defending ourselves against this onslaught has cost ratepayers around a million dollars a year.
The remedy is clear. When these Development Applications are significantly in conflict with the planning scheme, the courts should have the power to award costs.
It is high time the Planning and Environment Court Act 2016 was amended to support the public interest rather than favouring the interests of rogue developers.
Independent Noosa MP Sandy Bolton is on board. Now we need the new government, whatever shape it takes, to join in on behalf of local communities like ours right across the state.
Barry Cotterell, as President of the Peregian Beach Community Association worked on the long-running Thomco appeal over the old caravan park site in Peregian Beach. He is a former barrister and chair of bodies including the Qld Building Tribunal and REIQ Professional Standards Tribunal.