Tuesday 7 April 2009

Clifton spews over Deadman's proposal

Clifton Beach seems to go from bad to worse.

Over the last few years, residents at this quiet beach-side community, 25 minutes north of Cairns on the Captain Cook highway, have been ignored from successive Councils, of manging it's growth and protecting the natural beauty and wildlife.

From illegal building of inappropriate high-rise apartments; unlawful approvals by private certifier; the way in which the new Clifton Village shopping centre happened; desecration of Paradise Palms Golf course; and proposed Telstra mobilephone communications tower.

You could discount Clifton folk as a bunch of whingers, but the truth is they're probably the most politically active and community-minded residents on the northern beaches of Cairns.

At a Cairns Regional Council meeting last month, a controversial decision was put on hold, pending a site visit to Clifton Views, alongside the Captain Cook highway and Deadman's Creek. Council's Planning and Environment meeting tomorrow, will determine the next fate for this site that has been mis-managed by former and present developers and allowed to get away with encroaching on natural water and wildlife corridors, and even construct whole apartment buildings that were never even declared, nor approved.

Regional Councillors agreed to attend a special site inspection recently. Robert Pyne didn't make it, and advised he was not well on the day. Cr Allan Blake also did not attend.

The issue of the Clifton Views apartments, seen clearly from the Captain Cook Highway, immediately South of the BP Service Station, has been built within 5 meters of annual flood-prone river. The flooding of the apartments is a major concern raised by the residents.

However, the developer says that if they undertake channel work along the adjoining Deadman's Creek, which would involve bull-dozing to widen and concreting the natural watercourse, the finished floor levels of the completed units will be above the Q100 flood level.

Prior to endorsing a survey plan, it will be necessary for a Surveyor's certificate to be lodged demonstrating that all units be clear of the Q100 flood level.

There was discussion at the on-site Councillors meeting with residents, as to whether the land containing the creek should be transferred to Council. Peter Tabulo, Planning and Environment manager has recommended that Council not take ownership of the waterway easement and that the responsibility for the on-going maintenance be with the Clifton Views Body Corporate.

However, such watercourses are for Councils to look after and maintain with integrity, not a private company, nor a group of apartment owners.

The issue of flooding to the newly constructed units is and always has been the responsibility of the developer.

It is an astounding and unprecedented proposition to alter and interfere with a natural creek, and also pass 'maintenance' to a body corporate.

The developer is also proposing to build a brick retaining wall, along the side of the apartments to act as a barrier.

What will they achieve is this is approved at tomorrow's Council meeting is simply to move the flooding problem from their development site, downstream to long-established residential properties. Flooding can be expected at previously flood-free homes.

Importantly, if Council approve the application they will again be exposing the ratepayers to litigation. The increase flow rate, not volume, by 30,000 litres per minute, is a substantial amount of water towards downstream residential properties. It would fill the average backyard pool in under two minutes.

This development site has been littered with breaches and flouting of planning and environmental laws.

Locals at Clifton Beach are also angered that Council have completely disregarded the importance of Deadman's Creek waterway, as a designated wildlife corridor, that joins the rainforest either side of the highway to the coast. The Clifton Views apartments now straddle both sides of the waterway and compromise this sensitive area.

In 2003, CAFNEC fought successfully, following illegal vegetation-clearing on the site.

As False Cape activist and city architect Mark Buttrose said just last week, Council needs to take control of and direct their Planning department. Since this new Council has taken the reins, little has changed in the way in which town planners look after their 'clients' - the developers.

This decision will be big test for the environmental credentials of the new Cairns Regional Council.

Clifton Views - Site History"

  • April 2001- landscape plans for stage 1 were approved and Private Certifier (Mr Jeffery Fowler) issued building permit on stage 1 only, remaining stages to follow. Soon after it came to the notice of Council that during the course of this, that the developer wanted to clear the majority of the site claiming it will save disturbance later.
  • 9 April 2001 - Mr Fowler lodged application to clear protected vegetation.
  • 10 April 2001 - Neil Buckby Cairns City Council inspected the site;
  • April 2001 - Mr Fowler was granted approval to clear protected vegetation subject to five conditions. The conditions were intended to prevent the entire site being prematurely cleared, also to retain habitats and aesthetic values of the area.
  • 16 May 2001 - the developer stated that the vegetation restrictions were frustrating the development.
  • 18 May 2001- Mr Tabulo met John van Grieken with John Dawson and Peter Robinson to discuss the vegetation removal conditions. Mr Van Grieken expressed his reservations about the validity and conclusions of the report submitted by the developer, basing these concerns on the qualifications of the person making the report. John Dawson and Peter Robinson specifically raised concerns for the requirement of a six metre vegetation corridor along the creek on the property. Mr van Grieken undertook to have further discussion with Neil Buckby.
  • 23 May 2001 - Mayor Kevin Byrne approached Mr Nelson about the status of the application, on enquiring about the matter, they went to see Mr Van Grieken and Mr Buckby. Enquiries were made about why the permit was not issued and it was agreed that the conditions of Local Law approval be relaxed and an approval was to be issued. Approval was issued 23 May 2001, the entire site was then clear felled.
  • Applications under current owner:
    20 August 2003
    13 May 2004
    13 October 2006
    28 August 2007
    29 May 2008
    26 June 2008, and the current one:
    25 February 2009


Lillian at Yorkeys said...

I reckon the Council Planning Dept needs a good overhaul. They have been approving crap as above for a long time now. I dare say many of them have done their planning degrees in big cities, & have little knowledge of the Wet Tropics and all that it requires. Mind you, I haven't gone through all their CVs, but I think is the case. Additionally, many of them would have carried on from the Byrne (pro-development) years.

Secondly, I think our new (2008) Council is just beginning to get their heads around the fact that Planning puts up projects that are not appropriate for Cairns, not built or planned sustainably. Just because Planning says it's OK, doesn't mean jack-shit.

We've all seen way too many of these badly-conceived projects OKd in the last couple of years to have any faith that Planning, is actually indeed, planning anything.

I reckon this is one of the areas Val & the other Councillors needs to visit. Wake up folks - smell the burning smell in the planning dept & do something about it. Yes, you might (Councillors) use the wimpy "it's up to the CEO to hire & fire", but Val, jeez woman, get going. It's this sort of issue a lot of us voted you in for.

John, Kuranda said...

I have great objections to the plan to "undertake channel work along the adjoining Deadman's Creek, which would involve bull-dozing to widen and concreting the natural watercourse..."

Natural water courses are an integral part of the environment of TFNQ and for these to concreted is just plain evil. Riparian corridors are essential for the free movement of wildlife along the watercourse banks as they traverse up and down from the range to the sea. And yes that does happen. There is plenty of evidence that shows that as our seasons change, certain species retreat up the McAlister Range, only to return to the lowlands later in the cycle. To say nothing of the need for water seepage in the riparian corridor to feed the trees, shrubs and bushes that hold the whole thing together.

I am also bemused by the concept of a one in one hundred year flood concept. All the geeks say that the Tropics will be getting wilder and wetter as global warming takes hold. So is the one in one hundred going to become the one in ten event? Or in the end do we just build levee banks along our waterways to protect ill-sited residential development?

But then that just shifts the problem to someone else's (literal) backyard. Perhaps CRC should also pledge a million bucks to idemnify down creek landowners? What the odd mill to our obviously cash rich Council?

Sue E said...

Take a look at the Glencorp’s “Clifton Waters”4 storey development on the corner of Clifton Road and the highway. Nothing like a little reality to illustrate why Council’s planning department needs more than an overhaul.

The proposed Smithfield Town Centre is a late addition to tomorrows Planning and Environment Committee Meeting. An amendment is proposed in relation to the Town Centre Core precinct overlay namely:
Acceptable Measure A9.2 -buildings and structures are no higher than 12 metres (4 storeys)

“Acceptable” is the operative word here and as Council and developers know only too well, the CairnsPlan 5.4 Administrative definition of “storey” excludes basements or semi-basements.

The space within a building which is situated between one floor level and the floor
level next above, or if there is no floor level above, the ceiling or roof above. A level
used partly or solely for parking is included as a storey, other than basement or
semi-basement parking which is excluded

As patently obvious “Clifton Waters” is a 5 level structure – 4 storeys plus semi-basement. Buildings and structures within the Town Centre core precinct will therefore in all probability exceed 12 metres in height.

Jude Johnston said...

And we all know, only too well, that a developer can then apply for an "exemption" from the Planning Scheme.