Community reactions to the Draft Redlands City Plan 2015 are clear and consistent. With 6,400 submissions Redlands’ response was ten times greater than that of the Gold Coast City (on a per capita basis).
Community concerns included risks to lifestyle, livability and quality of life through traffic congestion, small lot development, medium and high rise development, loss of habitat and loss of parks and other open space.
The outcome was a vote of “NO CONFIDENCE!” in the Draft City Plan, a view reiterated in the 2016 local government elections when the Williams team failed to get a majority.
After the elections, in late August, Redlands2030 wrote to each Divisional Councillor pointing out concerns (shared by a number of community organisations) about the foundations and construct of the draft Plan.
Today we look at what many local councillors have to say about the Draft City Plan.
City Plan questions put to all Councillors
The template submission provided to the community by CARP raised the same problems and over 6,000 people iterated the same concerns. Some voices in the community would dismiss these submissions as the voice of the noisy minority or the result of people being pressured or forced to make a submission. These assertions are wrong and cheapen the views of the thousands of people who expressed their views this way. A more realistic assessment is that the voice of the community represents an “inconvenient truth” and any councillor (or staff advisor) attempting to dismiss the voice of the community should put their concerns in the public arena.
The City Plan letter (from Redlands2030) was sent to all ten divisional Councillors on 29 August 2016, including nine key points as to why the City Plan is flawed :
- Population projections for SEQ and Redlands have slumped
- SEQ Koala Population Modelling Study confirms koalas are in trouble
- No regard of the Federal Government’s 30’ City agenda
- Ignores impacts of well-advanced developments at Shoreline, Toondah Harbour PDA and Weinam Creek PDA which is a naïve approach given critical impacts these developments will have on population, traffic, infrastructure and congestion as an extra 9 000-10 000 dwellings are in addition to the parameters given for the draft Plan.
- The reliance of old or outdated studies notably for Land Supply; Social Infrastructure; Transport etc are flawed foundations for the new City Plan
- The lack of an approved Heritage Strategy fails to meet community expectations of a new City Plan
- The lack of a plan for rural and peri-urban areas and the failure to adopt the Redland Rural Futures Strategy leaves the draft City Plan largely silent about the planning for more than half of the City.
- Alignment with the new SEQ Regional Plan is impossible given its revision is still underway by the State.
- Redlands is the only Local Government in the whole of SEQ that has not used Local Area Plans.
The letter to Councillors gave an undertaking that their response would be “faithfully” reproduced and published. We believe the community has a right to know what Councillors are thinking and what they are doing to advance the draft City Plan including how they are responding to the flaws, dated foundation documents and the weight they (i.e. Councillors) put on the community submissions.
What we know about City Plan consultation
Social media in Redlands is alive with questions about the progress of the draft Plan.
Response from the elected members of Council will appease some people while for others more questions will arise. But at least arising from these responses might emerge a discussion about the future of the City. Detailed and “informed” consultation in the preparation of the draft City Plan was limited to the Development Industry Reference Group (DIRG). This was very much a top down planning process.
The vision for the City Plan is supposed to be linked to the Redlands2030 Community Plan where as there is a more obvious line of sight to the “Open for Business and Investment” mantra of “jobs, jobs, jobs”; “putting Redlands on the map” and “open for business”.
It is understood the City Plan is still being advanced through an extensive series of councillor workshops. This is done in the form of “secret and confidential” policy meetings. These meetings are closed to the community. Such levels of secrecy were not applied during the development of the 2006 Redland Planning Scheme.
No explanation was given for the different approach this time around. Equally, no explanation has been presented for the “Fort Knox” treatment being given to the review of submissions, the process for the review or how the Council will reconcile the obvious hiatus between the Draft City Plan and the community response to it.
From the outside the program of Council workshops looks designed to keep everyone busy. It is a challenging task, but one wonders how the “workshop” process can make progress when key aspects of the draft Plan remain at odds with community values and aspirations and do not deal with the issues.
One suggestion emanating from Council sources his that the draft plan can only be amended in response to submissions (in line with State Government guidelines) while that is accepted practice the actual guidelines provide for changes that “address new or changed planning circumstances or information”. There are many aspects of City Plan2015 that are new or changed.
Given the pre-election commitments by many of the current Councillors to abandon the Draft City Plan their reasoning for pushing ahead with the review of submissions seems, reasonably, to be of public interest.
What councillors said
The responses to the questions posed by Redlands2030 are varied but the efforts of all who responded is appreciated. Each response opened the door for more questions, but at this stage the community might like to suggest follow up issues. The full response by all Councillors linked (blue) to the respective Councillor.
Division 1 – Cr Wendy Boglary
Division 2 – Cr Peter Mitchell
Division 3 – Cr Paul Golle
Division 4 – Cr Lance Hewlett
Division 5 – Cr Mark EdwardsNO response
Division 6 – Cr Julie TaltyNO response
Division 7 – Cr Murrary Elliot
Division 8 – Cr Tracey Huges
Division 9 – Cr Paul GleesonNO response
Division 10 – Cr Paul Bishop
Not all councillors replied
Seven of the Councillors responded to the Redlands2030 letter of 29 August 2016 but Division 2 Councillor Mitchell’s reply was very brief and uninformative.
Three councillors (Gleeson, Edwards and Talty) didn’t bother to respond.
Mayor Williams was not asked to comment because it was assumed that her position would (not unreasonably) reflect the “corporate” line which has been her ongoing position since well in advance of the public consultation period.
Given the critical and fundamental changes being proposed under the guise of the Draft City Plan a broader conversation with community stakeholders is warranted.
Clearly the new City Plan is too important to leave to Council employees and elected Councillors. It would be entirely reasonable and appropriate for councillors to discuss the way forward, in public in council general meetings in front of the Redlands community. Other steps councillors could take could include:
- Establish a Community Reference Group to help sieve through the community concerns about the draft City Plan.
- People in the divisions of those “silent” Councillors should seek comment from their representatives on the issues raised by Redlands2030.
- An undertaking that, if the draft Plan is not abandoned, that further community consultation will be undertaken.