Previous calls for Redland City Council to help the community prepare for consultation about the new City Plan appear to have fallen on deaf ears.
Regular ‘columns’ about City Plan 2015 have appeared in the Redland City Bulletin. They usually outline an aspect of planning but typically they don’t deal with issues that people are concerned about. The column usually ends with a call for community participation when the scheme is released but Council is not doing anything substantive to prepare the community for the consultation process.
Ongoing delays to the release of a draft planning scheme have not been explained but the draft City Plan 2015 might well emerge recast as “City Plan 2016”.
Talty’s view of the new planning scheme
Councillor Julie Talty, Portfolio Chair City Planning and Assessment, gives her introduction to the new Redland City planning scheme in a staged interview posted on Youtube in March 2015. In this interview she is very critical of the current planning scheme as being complex and difficult to read.
Perhaps Cr Talty could confirm if Council has a formal evaluation of the existing scheme and make this report available now. This seems a reasonable step and it would help the community understand her critique of the existing scheme. People could then make their own assessments of the changes needed.
Planning for south east Thornlands: how not to do it!
The current planning scheme had a controversial “birth” having been carefully re-crafted by the “Seccombe Six” Council in 2006. The “new” 2006 planning scheme was announced with great fanfare by the then Council. In fact Mayor Seccombe was quoted (at the time) as saying “every step was being taken to minimise any impact on the surrounding development and nearby residents”. Looking at south east Thornlands now ….many would judge the outcomes as poor or failed.
One poor outcome was the demise of the interurban break between Thornlands and Victoria Point. It was swept away in 2006 and the course was set for the sea of small lot and medium density development. This has now emerged. A potted history of the planning of this area, recently published by Cr Wendy Boglary, helps to make sense of the “outcome” people can now see before them. She points the finger at the Council’s Special Meeting in August 2006 as the critical decision point, noting that:
“Of the present 2015 Councillors that were in council back then – Karen Williams and Alan Beard voted in favour of this plan while Murray Elliott and Craig Ogilvie voted against.“
In 2006, the then draft planning scheme was recalled from the State, by the “Seccombe Six”. Many believe the amendments implanted by that Council were at odds with the weight of the public submissions. Perhaps Cr Talty could help the community understand planning processes by bringing the scuttled planning scheme to the public arena. The mystery of the late review of the draft planning scheme (as it existed before the “heavy hand” of a developer friendly Council intervened) remains a curiosity.
Four steps to giving the community a “fighting chance”
In the interests of providing the community with as much insight as possible, Redlands 2030 asks (again) for the Council to give the community a “fighting chance” in making submissions about the new draft planning scheme by doing the following:
1. Councillors to vouch for the Draft City Plan
The standard Planning Schemes are complex and usually tedious documents … and many people will struggle to make informed submissions on the new City Plan. In considering City Plan 2015 Councillors should undertake to TEST-READ City Plan 2015 before “imposing” the draft Scheme on an already apprehensive community.
Given Cr Talty’s assurances about a less complex scheme and one that is easily understood by “Mums and Dads” Council should be able to ensure the new scheme achieves that goal. To achieve that each Councillor should be able to assure the community that they (all 11 Councillors) endorse the wording and intended outcomes of the Scheme. Councillors might like to make sure that they personally are able to advise constituents of any issues they may have with the plan.
In a word, the community expects effective stewardship from its elected representatives. A responsible approach on the part of Divisional Councillors will ensure the unpaid work by the community and community groups in assessing the new Scheme and organising a coherent and comprehensive response is not wasted on confused and confusing text and associated confusion about intended outcomes.
Councillors should “vouch” for the readability, the every day comprehension and intended outcomes of the new City Plan2015… this commitment might give the community a “fighting chance” to make a meaningful contribution.
2. Release the Community Consultation Plan now!
During 2014 Council began the consultation with “ticket only” City Plan 2015 workshops. The one hour sessions for a maximum of 60 people. These sessions were simplistic and controlled and the value was lost on most attendees.
By playing its cards so close to its chest the Council did not avail itself of the knowledge, skills and experience of the community. That was a missed opportunity and the value and indeed the purpose of the sessions remain a mystery. Presumably these forums were part of a defined community consultation process.
To help people make sense of the 2014 sessions, Council should release its entire, step-by-step City Plan 2015 consultation plan now! Hopefully, this will show that Council intends to have an extended consultation period that is substantially longer than the minimum period required by law.
Knowing what was expected last year and what is expected in the coming months will give the community a “fighting chance” to making a meaningful contribution.
3. Make the planning overlays available now!
NOW is the time for Council to make available much of the technical documentation used to support the new City Plan 2015. These documents include technical reports, mapping, discussion papers, and advice from the State Government – in fact anything used to guide decision making.
The policy position and the statutory maps should rightly remain “in confidence” but background information should be made available now. This would allow people to examine the technical basis of the new Plan well in advance of assessing the plan and the planning policies of the new scheme.
In addition, the mapping overlays of the new City Plan are said to be based on technical data technical or assessments. These overlays should have already been released but should at least be made available now.
Presumably there will be overlays the same or similar to the previous Planning Scheme overlays for acid sulphate soils, bushfire hazards, flooding, etc and most will not change. Given the dire need to protect our koalas, and recent discussions about heritage values most people expect there will be Koala habitat and a cultural heritage overlays.
Irrespective of the overlays are in the new Scheme, overlays are usually based on technical assessments and people could examine and test the technical basis of the City Plan, as a first step, independent of the assessment of the policy and mapping outcomes. This approach by Council would show respect for the expertise and knowledge in the community and allow the community to test the evidence base of the new City Plan2015.
An early release of overlays will give the community a “fighting chance” to make a meaningful contribution.
4. Release the Evaluation Report now!
Developing a new Planning Scheme should form part of an adaptive planning model. In addition, contemporary land use planning is tied to an adaptive planning framework embracing the PDCA (plan–do–check–act) approach.
Presumably the new City Plan 2015 will look and strengths and weaknesses of the previous Scheme. We expect to eliminate the failures and build on the successes but equally we should be careful to apply the adage – if it ain’t broke don’t fix it!
So what were the failings of the old Scheme? The frequent refusal by Council to defend planning and development decisions in court is a clear indication that Council see are weaknesses. These shortcomings ought to have been documented by Council over time and there should be a comprehensive report in place, identifying the failures of the previous Scheme. It is to be hoped that rectifying problems should have been the starting point in developing the new City Plan.
To that end a comprehensive Evaluation Report should be available so problems and weaknesses of the existing planning scheme are “on the table”. This will save the community having to guess!
An early release of the Evaluation Report on the existing Planning Scheme will give the community a “fighting chance” to make a meaningful contribution.