Monday 8 March 2010

Cairns Council set to change assessment criteria for shopping centres

Cairns Regional Council is set to endorse a dramatic change to the CairnsPlan for the approval of future for all non-residential development at Wednesday's planning meeting.
The recommendation is to endorse the State report that would effectively take a level of assessment away from the community, and applications for new shopping centres would be measured against a code instead of the impact on local surrounding businesses, community and the environment.
Presently, approvals for shopping facilities greater than 10,000 m2 floor space need to make an impact assessable application, that often gives rise to appeals from surrounding business and residents. There has been an ongoing legal dispute for extension to the Smithfield Shopping Centre that have drawn the ire from the management of the Clifton Beach centre, 8 kilometers to the North.
Smithfield has also been strong opponents to the proposed new Northern Beaches town centre, across the Cook Highway. Many believe it will simply be another shopping prescient, in close proximity to the existing centre.
Division 3 Councillor Robert Pyne strongly opposes to the move.
"It concerns me that if this resolution is passed, any future application will not have to jump through this hoop," Councillor Robert Pyne says. "There will be no capacity for a future Council, business or community group to object to any such future applications, as long as they tick all the other boxes."
Pyne is calling debate around this change, as he believes it is heading in a direction that gives serious cause for concern.
However Council's manager of Planning Strategies, Peter Boyd says the proposed amendment and planning scheme policy, will enable a more appropriate level of assessment for non-residential development.
"The proposed amendment will provide a more appropriate level of assessment of applications for shopping facilities greater than 10,000m² by changing the level of assessment from Impact Assessable to Code Assessable," Peter Boyd says. "Using the planning scheme policy to ensure all aspects of the application are carefully considered and enabling community participation and consultation."
"The proposed amendment and Planning Scheme Policy give Council the opportunity to undertake proactive planning and ensure sustainable town planning outcomes are delivered," Boyd says. This simply means that between Council officers and 11 Councillors, the community will be powerless to object or put in submissions.
A Council resolution on 9th September last year agreed to an amendment to the CairnsPlan prior to the commencement of the Sustainable Planning Act coming into force.
Cairns Regional Council says that in response to the ACCC report and also previous appeals in Cairns, it is recommend that the CairnsPlan is amended to change the way in which large commercial developments are assessed.
"It is considered that proposals for Shopping Facilities greater than 10,000m² can be effectively assessed using code assessable provisions under the CairnsPlan whereby the application is assessed against only relevant codes and not the entire scheme which is Impact Assessable," Peter Boyd says.
"Furthermore, to ensure appropriate planning outcomes are achieved, it is recommended that Council endorse the proposed Commercial Impact and Need Planning Scheme Policy that will be triggered by all non-residential development in the Sub Regional Centre Planning Area which includes the Smithfield, Westcourt and Earlville shopping Centres," Boyd says.
This is a bad move for open accountable democracy for residents of Cairns. To leave such important infrastructure decision to a small elite group, is a grave insult to the community which needs to have a strategic role in how its city grows and develops.
It's likely that the vote split will be narrow and similar to the opposition shown to progress the Cairns cycleway network last week. I suspect it will be passed, as a majority of the right faction of this Council maintains a lack of will to actively engage the community in its decision-making process.


Disillusioned said...

Any developer with a bit of nous can get around the CairnsPlan, anyway. Are you saying, Michael and Cr Pyne, the CairnsPlan actually means something?

The residents have very little say in the way Cairns is developing and had better just get used to it! Did Cairns Central shopping centre, in development process, have impact assessable guidelines or were there ways around that? I see Cr Pyne believes there may be a populist line to take here. Good on you Councillor!

Alex said...

It does seem that the State Government and Council can do whatever they like without consultation with communities and many times without consideration of their own 'guidelines'.
We should not accept this as the way of the future but as voters should express our concern at the lack of transparency in these matters.
Just like the public housing developments they will do as they please. Some people may find it amusing that Palm Cove and Bluewater are faced with new public housing unit developments, but the Department of Public Housing owns large parcels of land across the region...who will be next?