After months of post election wrangling over the proposed new Redlands Planning Scheme Mayor Karen Williams has ambushed councillors and the community by calling for the new City Plan to be approved at a short notice special meeting tomorrow.
Councillors have indicated that they were expecting proposed amendments to the Draft City Plan 2015 at a meeting next month.
They were surprised by the Mayor calling a special meeting for Tuesday, 28 February 2017 giving them very little time to digest the final package of proposed changes.
Confusion about the meeting date
It seems that Council’s administration staff were surprised also, they published an agenda prominently displaying the special meeting date as “28 March 2017”. Perhaps a foretaste of other problems which might result if the draft planning scheme is amended and approved without full consideration.
If the plan were to be considered on 28 March instead of 28 February, councillors would have plenty of time to consider the implications of the proposed package of amendments and they would undoubtedly get some feedback from the residents who they are supposed to represent.
People familiar with building or construction would understand the importance of good foundations. The Draft City Plan was developed on the bad foundations of inadequate community engagement at the drafting stage. Some developers were engaged secretively via the infamous Development Industry Reference Group but everyone else was excluded from having any input.
When the Draft City Plan was finally put out for public consultation the Council received thousands of submissions, many objecting to the basic assumptions and intent of the Plan.
It seems that some within the Council wish to ignore community values, public interest and community feedback.
The key question for the City is will a majority of councillors share this arrogant and dismissive approach?
The Mayor, her bureaucrats and her “yes m’am” councillors are desperately trying to avoid the need for any further community consultation about the City Plan which could, and should, result from adoption of major changes.
The State Government’s guidelines say:
If changes have been made to the proposed planning scheme or amendment that has been released for public consultation, the local government must determine whether those changes result in the proposed planning scheme being significantly different to the proposed planning scheme that was released publicly for public comments. If changes have resulted in the proposed planning scheme or amendment being significantly different, additional public consultation is warranted as the public has not had the opportunity to comment on proposals which may impact on them directly or on the community.
So instead, a plan is being put forward for approval which does not deal with many of the community’s concerns.
Anything in the ‘too hard’ or ‘don’t really want’ baskets are notionally to be dealt with in a package of planning scheme amendments which would go through its own consultation process.
This has been characterised as a parallel process but pigs don’t fly and any major amendments package would take years to resolve.
Any councillor who has been told that they can have a change that they want made in the package of amendments should consider the risk that they may become victims of ‘bait and switch’ tactics.
Since the Draft City Plan was first conceived in 2014 important issues have arisen and assumptions have changed. The projected rate of population growth has been trimmed slightly but we have also found out that our koala population numbers are declining alarmingly, heading towards extinction in the lifetime of our City’s younger residents. Such issues should be addressed in finalising the new planning scheme.
If Redland City has a Council committed to community values the City Plan will be properly finalised as a single well made package. Then the properly finalised draft City Plan will be made available for further public review through another community consultation process.
Redland City Council has recently been the subject of an investigation by the Queensland Ombudsman which found that the Council’s decision making processes in a particular matter lacked integrity.
Councillors should take all the time necessary to ensure that the process of making amendments to the City’s planning scheme is 100% full of integrity.