Increasing residential density by stealth in Redland City


St Rita is known as the patroness of lost and impossible causes

Is it OK for Redland City Council to approve medium density units in an urban residential zone?

Not a problem say the Council’s planning staff who have recommended that councillors approve such a development at their meeting on Wednesday.

This development proposal, for land next to St Rita’s School in Victoria Point, has caused angst for neighbours and locals alike but the ramifications should be considered by communities across Redland City.

Really! 16 units on a 3,035 sqm lot

Increasing residential density

16 units planned for this UR1 site in Benfer Road, Victoria Point (click to enlarge)

Council will consider the officers recommendation to approve a Multiple Dwelling proposal for 16 units on a 3,035 sq m vacant block (about 190 sq m per unit)  at 41-45 Benfer Road, Victoria Point. Council’s decision on this application may establish a precedent for the development of Multiple Dwellings in the Urban Residential Zone in the Redlands which is contrary to the reasonable interests of existing residents living in that Zone as well as to the broader community.

Under the Redlands Planning Scheme (RPS) the principal purpose of the Urban Residential Zone is primarily for detached Dwellings. It is typically the Medium Density Residential Zone which is for Multiple Dwellings ie more than three dwellings on a lot.

The existing Planning Scheme does however provide the opportunity for multiple dwellings development within a sub area UR1 of the Urban Residential Zone.  Then, with the very recent amendment to the RPS in March 2015, the opportunity for Multiple Dwellings in the Urban Residential Zone was extended to all lots with an area of 1,200m2 and 4,000m2 with a minimum 20 metre frontage.  This not insignificant amendment was made at a time when the Council’s main public relations effort was to get the people to focus on the upcoming City Plan 2015.

Probable “planning” solutions

With regards to density of development, the intent of the RPS as expressed through the Probable Solutions in the Zone Codes to achieve the Specific Outcomes sought are as follows:-

Urban Residential Zone“Residential development achieves a density of not greater than 1 dwelling unit per 400m2” (This maximum density applies to practically all residential development in the Urban Residential Zone)

Medium Density Residential ZoneResidential uses achieve a density of 1 dwelling unit per 200m2 of site area”

The Benfer Road development application MCU013477 is to be decided by Council at its meeting, is for 16 units on a 3035 sq m lot which is one dwelling unit per 190 sq m.   This density does not even achieve the density of  the Medium Density Residential Zone.  One must ask – how does this performance achieve the Specific Outcome of the Urban Residential Zone in which the property is located?

Officers have made the recommendation to approve the development, and have deemed “The proposal, as designed, is… considered compatible with detached character” over-riding the maximum density quoted in the Probable Solution.  Council staff have recently argued “what is not understood (by the community) is that the planning system in Queensland is a performance based, rather than a prescriptive system”  (Letter to the Editor by General Manager Community and Customer Services Redland City Bulletin 29 July 2015 and an article  Redland City Council News 22 July 2015).

This development application provides some insight into the process and interaction between the applicant and Council which led to the Officer’s recommendation. For people concerned to understand how this proposal satisfies “performance based system” the full document should be examined but a sample of the depth of assessment, the use of “planners logic”  “subjective opinion” and even the “planners language” (bolding by Redlands2030) includes:

Whereas I agree that the predominant form of development in this area will be low-rise detached houses, the site should be put into its locational context being adjacent to a busy school with its associated traffic and amenity issues.

The development is not at odds with the overall outcome since multiple dwellings are encouraged presumably on appropriate lots. I consider that given the proximity to the school and the large size of the allotment, Multiple Dwellings on this lot can act as a transition to Detached Dwellings further West.

Also, the development is consistent with the overall outcome since the final product will offer choice and housing affordability.

In terms of the performance based planning system perhaps it is time for Council to look at the message it is telling, the messenger, and the methodology it relies upon and stop asserting the community in some way lacks an appreciation of the benefits being bestowed upon residents!

Flow on effects?

There are at least two more advanced applications for multiple dwelling developments on Urban Residential Zoned land now before Council.   The assessment and decision on the Benfer Road development proposal may well set precedents for the determination of these applications.  These in turn become “bell wether” decisions which will guide future multiple dwelling development in the UR Zone in Redland City.  In the pipeline are:

  1. Rachow St, Thornlands – Proposal for 167 Multiple Dwelling Units by Roycorp Pty Ltd. (MCU013477) 

    Site in Rachow Street proposed for 167 units

    Site in Rachow Street proposed for 167 units

The proposal is broadly described in the following item in the Redland City Times from 19 May 2015.  This property is Zoned – Urban Residential – Sub Area UR1   (Approx. 1.9ha) and Open Space (Approx 4.2ha)

Multiple Dwellings are a consistent use in the UR Zone – Sub Area UR1 with a probable solution density of not greater than 1 dwelling unit per 400m2 and are an Inconsistent Use in the Open Space Zone.  Following the intent of the RPS Zonings, a multiple dwelling development on the site the maximum yield would not exceed 47 units.

The proposal is for 167 Multiple Dwelling Units on a lot of approx. 3.5 ha (including approx. 1.6ha zoned Open Space) plus Road plus Public Open Space. The proposed density is approximately 1 dwelling unit per 210 sqm.

While this application is midway through the assessment process and is still subject to public notification when submissions can be made, the available Council documents indicate that Council’s position is generally favourable towards the application.

Of interest and for comparative purposes is the almost completed nearby Roycorp development (MCU012935) off Freshwater Street. This development has drawn adverse community comment from those who travel between Cleveland and Victoria Point. This site has 125 multiple dwellings located on a lot of about 3.26 ha.  This is a dwelling density of 1 unit per 261 sq m. This Roycorp site is located in the Medium Density Residential Zone, (the primary zone for units) within the RPS for which the probable solution for density is 1 unit per 200 sq m 

  1. Seabreeze Court, Ormiston – Proposal for 5 Multiple Dwelling Units by East Coast Surveys (Aust) Pty Ltd (MCU013418)

The property is zoned Urban Residential. The application relies on the recent changes to the RPS which lists Multiple Dwellings as a Consistent Use on lots in the UR Zone with an area between 1200 sq m to 4000 sq m and having a minimum frontage of 20m. Such applications are subject to Impact Assessment which includes public notification and the opportunity for submissions.

This property is located in a mature residential area of “leafy” Ormiston.  There is an existing residence on a lot  of 1,644 sq m. The code probable solution for density is not greater than 1 unit per 400 sq m which compares with the proposed density of one unit per 329 sq m, some 21% greater than the probable solution. When publicly notified the application drew about 50 adverse submissions. It is currently awaiting Council’s Decision.

Introducing medium density by stealth

If Council were to accept the officers recommendation on the current Benfer Road application it will provide a precedent which might lead to accepting of  the density proposed for both of the Rachow Street and Seabreeze Court proposals outlined above.

There are many properties in the UR Zone, with or without amalgamation, on which Multiple Dwellings would now be consistent development. Applying the same density as the officers are recommending for approval of the Benfer Road application this could result in anything from 6 units on a 1200 sq m lot to 23 units on a 4000 sq lot.

Such an outcome may be acceptable for property Zoned Medium Density Residential (MDR) but seems totally unacceptable to the community residing within the UR Zone. Effectively this is introducing MDR development by stealth into mainly mature residential precincts within the UR Zone.  This would almost certainly lead to the destruction of the character, livability and fabric of those precincts.


Please note: Offensive or off-topic comments will be deleted. If offended by any published comment please email

7 thoughts on “Increasing residential density by stealth in Redland City

  1. it is clear that the planners are being pressured to write up this garbage to satisfy the demands of the councilors / Mayor – these recommendations have no logic or planning rationale. they are bending the rules until someone snaps and takes them to court. Sadly the communities’ rights to do that have been wittled away.

  2. “1.2.1 Redlands Planning Scheme Seeks to Achieve Outcomes
    (1) The Redlands Planning Scheme seeks to achieve outcomes that are identified according to the following levels –
    (b)  Overall Outcomes that are the purpose of a Code; 

    (c)  SpecificOutcomes that contribute to achieving the Overall Outcomes and are the outcomes by which code or impact assessable development are assessed;
    (d)  Probable Solutions that are prescriptive requirements and provide a guide to achieving Specific Outcomes; ”

    In (d) the planning scheme’s various codes which are used to assess development are “guides” only.

    Reminds me of the famous line in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie:(quote)

    Gibbs : And there’s the code to consider.
    Elizabeth : The code? You’re pirates. Hang the code, and hang the rules! They’re more like guidelines anyway. Bloody pirates.

    Should we say

    “The code? You’re planners. Hang the code, and hang the rules! They’re more like guidelines anyway. Bloody planners.”?

    Or could it be Bloody Judges of the P and E court?

    In Pacific Seven v City of Sandringham (1982) VR 157 at 163 the presiding judge said: (quote)

”Planning is a difficult exercise with flexibility as an essential ingredient. Those entrusted with its implementation should bear in mind that neither individual or community interest is served by recourse to exotic legalism. Whetting the saliva of lawyers with one hand on the guillotine can only frustrate rather than meet the end of justice, and the expressed intention of the legislature in the field of planning. Whatever be the consequence of legal points which fall to be decided, every endeavour should be made to deal with the substance of an application for permission to use or develop land in a certain way with maximum expedition and fairness. 
It is seldom appropriate in matters such as these to rely on any specific statement of intent or of aims or objectives in the planning documents as determinative. It is rare that an express imprimatur or injunction can be found in them for a particular proposal. Almost invariably a diligent search of the planning documents can unearth in such statements passages which appear to argue for or against the proposal but generally speaking it would be unwise to place too much weight on such a passage. The planning documents, while they are given the force of law…are not drawn with the precision of Acts of Parliament and the statements of intent or of aims or of objectives are intended to provide guidance in the difficult task of balancing the relevant facts, circumstances and competing interests in order to decide whether a particular proposal should be approved or rejected. So such statements should be read broadly”

    So can it be deduced that applicable codes and by-laws are applied at the subjective whim of the relevant assessing officer?
    Which is why the public needs, in as many instance as possible, to be involved in the process. If an applicant or a submitter disagrees with a Council decision, the only recourse seems to be through the Courts- which the majority of lay people wouldn’t attempt, being cost prohibitive.

    So the stated purpose of SPA is (et al) Pt 2 .3(a) (quote)

    “managing the process by which development takes place, including ensuring the process is accountable, effective and efficient and delivers sustainable outcomes; and”
    and to advance to that end it must include (in 5 (1) (g)

    “providing opportunities for community involvement in decision making”

    would seem to be a “feel good” statement with not practical operational effect.

    Only impact assessable application give an opportunity for community involvement by way of submission and the number of impact assessable applications is reduced with every new planning scheme.
    The new plan seems to have even dispensed with the concept of “Inconsistent” development.

  3. I know that Karen and her cronies will do exactly as they want, which is to pass all developmental opportunities, but I want to have my say…. I DON’T WANT UNITS BEING BUILT ON THIS BLOCK. The residents don’t want units built on this block and we’re fed up with telling the council the same thing! Why bother having any zoning rules and regulations, when they are just ignored by the council? Stop trying to change our community into something that none of us want! We don’t want units. We don’t want multiple houses on smallish blocks. We don’t want to have tiny blocks built so more and more people can be squeezed into this area. If people want to move here then they need to save and scrimp like the rest of us had to and are continuing to do so. It’s ok to be an area that is more exclusive than others – how do you think the Sanctuary Cove area has survived – how has the exclusive Sydney coastal areas survived? If you can’t afford to live there, then you have to look elsewhere! People today need to realise that most of the time you have to work hard and save to accomplish the better things in life and this takes time (sometimes, a lot of time) – why are we continuing to bend to them in order for them to get everything now and to the detriment of others? I’m pretty sure that you won’t find unit blocks and tiny 400m2 blocks being created anywhere near the cliffs overlooking the Sydney harbour – just because I think it looks pretty and feel as though they should slash the value of their homes so I can live there along with other less wealthy Australians. That’s just how it goes. Why should we have our property prices lowered, so others can move in? We purchased our block for an investment – great area, large block sizes, beautiful houses and environmental areas. Now though, this has all changed. We’re striving to pay everything off whilst the pristine environmental areas around us disappear, whilst the bushland around us is cleared and hundreds of 400m2 blocks are created and whilst infrastructure lags behind. The city centre is fast becoming a gateway to high-rises and more and more disgusting unit blocks are being thrown in amongst our community. What the hell is going on? I can’t wait for the elections so I can vote to get rid of the development crazy council that are, by all accounts, promoting development as much as they can in order to change the Redlands into a thriving metropolis. SO SICKENING!!!!! This must stop!

    • Sarah, I couldn’t agree more. However, I am also concerned that Council officers are the ones recommending these drastic changes to our lifestyle. Who are they? Who instigated the recent changes to the MDR rules? How informed are our Councillors or do they simply ‘rubber stamp’ ANY recommendations put to them? The complicity and underhanded methods being used are mind-blowing! WHEN will our voices and objections be taken seriously?

  4. looks to me as though the Zoning System in Redlands is as useful as a plastic shopping bag….designed to carry stuff but can do anything from disposing garbage to killing turtles….no restrictions

  5. The units next to St Rita’s school have 16 units where 4 houses should go.
    Planners argued that because they were 4 buildings of 2 units ground floor – 2 units upper floor they had the same impact as high-set house. So because the built form is similar it’s OK. They are putting opaque glass in the bedroom windows overlooking the school oval. Will they be fixed windows that cannot be opened? Near a school? Units should be refused from overlooking where children play. The Mary St units at Birkdale a couple of years ago had privacy grills on windows overlooking the childcare centre but the children’s grounds can still be still seen through them.

Comments are closed.