Logan River tourism units sidestep regional plan

Logan City Council is considering an application to develop a major tourism facility next to the Logan River

An application to develop tourism accommodation on the Logan River is being considered by Logan City Council

A proposed tourism accommodation development on the Logan River highlights holes in Queensland’s planning and assessment process.

In May 2016 approval was sought for 1,528 residential units (hotel, resort units, apartment  buildings, townhouses and lakeside dwellings); convention centre; retail and child care. This application (MCUI/25/2016) is currently being assessed by Logan City Council.

The site is on Riedel Road on the bank of the Logan River at Carbrook. It’s about eight kilometres south of Redland Bay and closer to the proposed Shoreline residential development project in southern Redlands.

As has happened before in this part of the world (remember Shoreline?), the SEQ Regional Plan is being sidestepped.

Planning context and background

logan-site-and-setting

The proposed development takes over the riverfront and State owned land that is the bed of the river itself.

Some of the technical and contextual background information:

  • Fronting the Logan river the proposed development takes over the riverfront and State owned land that is the bed of the river itself. Alienation of State land should not be determined through a development application.
  • In February 2013 Logan City Council approved a Preliminary Approval development application (MCUI/3/2013) for a tourist resort for a part of the property. The proposal included: a 2,000 person multi-purpose function centre; 418 residential units (hotel, resort units and apartment buildings); and 6,000m2 of shops. All of a sudden without any community consultation the approval was accompanied by the Carbrook Tourism Strategy, which the Council seem to “pull out of thin air”.
  • A Preliminary Approval is similar to a concept proposal. Generally these involve “left field” type proposals that were not anticipated at this location and in that particular zone. In considering any such application, Council firstly needs to be satisfied that the concept is desirable and feasible if it were to eventuate. The actual details and approvals are then subjected to more detailed assessment in later development applications, which then authorise development to proceed. In the meantime, if the Preliminary Approval is approved, the proponent can go away and spend the necessary time and money on developing more concrete plans and proposals with a higher degree of confidence that the concept is supported.
  • In May 2016 a revised Preliminary Approval was submitted that now seeks approval for: 1,528 residential units (hotel, resort units, apartment buildings, townhouses and lakeside dwellings); convention centre; retail and child care. This application (MCUI/25/2016) is currently being assessed by Logan City Council.
  • The current South East Queensland Regional Plan includes a growth management strategy called the Urban Footprint. Essentially it draws a line within which all future “urban development” must occur; and restricts the type and intensity of uses that can occur outside of this area in order to preserve this land for other longer term desired uses.
  • This property is NOT included within the Urban Footprint in either the existing or the draft new SEQ Regional Plan.
  • Logan City Council had, up to the original Preliminary Approval, always included this and surrounding land in appropriate zones such as the Rural Zone. Whilst this property is still zoned Rural, the Sub-Area identifies it as being Rural Tourism Precinct.
  • Under the Queensland Planning System there is a distinct separation as to who should assess what. There are some matters that are considered “State Interests” and these are concurrently assessed by the relevant State Government Agencies. The rest are considered matters of local significance, which are assessed by the local government.

A tourism venture?

A major "urban development on the banks (and the jetty will be in) the Logan River

Overall concept plan for a potential urban development on the Logan River

Now you would think that an application to develop a tourist resort would somehow involve assessing let’s say the tourism aspect. Wrong!

The town planning report for The Lakes Development Application (page 33) states:

it is considered that there is significant merit in the proposed development for progressing intended tourism activities in the locality, while being responsive to natural environmental and scenic amenity values. It is also noted that a Preliminary Approval for a tourist development exists over the subject site, and this Preliminary Approval is of a similar nature with a key focus being the Logan River

Many would think the Logan River is a very majestic river as it snakes its way pass this point. However, you would have to doubt that it is so majestic that it would attract a potential 3,362 tourist per day to this particular location. This is the number assuming the full occupancy of 1,528 residential units times the assumed occupancy rate of 2.2 persons.

It is noted that this level of occupancy is consistent with Council’s infrastructure planning assumptions.  It is also noted that the reference to “scenic amenity values” makes no reference to the methodology or definitions of the Scenic Amenity Guideline of the SEQ Regional Plan.

It may rely on the nearby golf course to attract thousands of golfers. Perhaps a haven for Swedish naturists seeking to enjoy the Queensland sun.  But we don’t know!

Is the Lakes proposal real?

The Lakes staging plan

The Lakes staging plan

The thing is, we will never know because it is not reported, nor assessed, as part of this process. The community can make guesses by looking at the plans that will initially focus on convention and possible overseas marriage package trips. That is in itself a very crowded tourism space. But you can also see from the plans that townhouse residential development is put off to the “Future Stage”.  The future stages form a large part of this development.

The “future stages” are not explicitly linked to this proposed tourist resort.  In fact this does not form part of the application and if included it would be inconsistent with the SEQ Regional Plan State Regulatory Provisions that state:

The use of premises must not include residential development (other than to accommodate workers employed at the tourist activity or sport and recreation activity) and any urban activities (other than short term accommodation) must be incidental to the tourist activity or sport and recreation activity.

It is a resort style development on the banks of the Logan River in a nationally significant wetland, besides other environmental concerns of which there are many. The business case looks decidedly weak and the location bereft of infrastructure and services!  The inclusion of river and riverfront land in the development footprint shows public values and public interest have not figured highly in the assessment to date.

Why is this so? The State Government, despite being a referral agency for a tourist activity in areas outside of the Urban Footprint, actually has no jurisdiction to assess this matter under its planning legislation. This was made abundantly clear by the proponent in response to the Department request (that itself was dated 20 July 2016) that said:

It is noted that in its current form, a preliminary review by the department indicates that the proposal is for a high number of short term accommodation dwellings that is not proportionate to the size and scale of the proposed convention facility and tourist activities. In addition the department is of a view that the high number of short term accommodation dwellings (non-permanent) could become residential development for permanent accommodation and an urban activity at another point in time.

The proponent’s response (1 September 2016) was (in part):

…as no urban activities are proposed on the subject site, the comments made by SARA (including the above) in relation to Schedule 3 overriding needs tests of the SPRP, are not relevant and as such, a needs assessment has not been prepared and does not accompany this Information Request response. Importantly, it is also highlighted to SARA that in terms of State interests and Regional Plan matters, as the proposed development is for a tourist activity, Table 2B of Division 2 of the SPRP clearly articulates that the application itself does not require referral agency assessment (their bolding). What is relevant in this context for a tourist activity located within the Regional Landscape and Rural Production Area are the assessment provisions set out within Schedule 4 of the SPRP. These are the measures to determine the suitability and appropriateness of any tourist activity in the context of State interests and Regional Plan matters as they address site, use and strategic intent aspects. Accordingly, a detailed assessment of this proposed tourist activity development against these Schedule 4 assessment provisions of the SPRP has been undertaken and does accompany this information request response. This detailed assessment confirms the appropriateness of the development proposed and the scale intended for the subject site.

Decoded and translated from genteel planning jargon, that means “State Government you have no authority or interest here.”

The intent of the proponent with their response to the State was probably equally aimed at the community because it is unlikely public submissions on the Logan Planning Scheme would have countenanced a development of this scale in the proposed location.  As the State Government pushes for a “more efficient” planning system, it ties its own hands in being able to deal with proposals like the Lakes.  And the community is poorly served because of a planning system that seems unable to operate outside the bounds of “normal” urban development.

Logan City Council didn’t ask for, nor receive any information on this same matter. Presumably because it’s planning scheme was not adequate to request this information or it desperately wants to believe that it will happen as proposed.

So a major tourist resort that has no analysis of it likely target market and feasibility may be approved in an area not intended nor zoned for urban residential development and on the face of it has no obvious tourism appeal for such a large-scale proposal.

Many resort developments have failed in the past in far more established tourism areas. Resorts which rely on the overseas market tend to go in and out of fashion. Unless these large-scale developments have a buoyant domestic market, they are destined to fail.

It’s possible that in a few years  time Logan City Council may be told:

The tourist resort never took off so we now wish to convert it to a gated residential community.

What is planning if it can be so easily by-passed?

There seems to be more than meets the eye behind his application.  A report in “The Australian” recounted on a local social media site points to Land title records showing the land was brought for $843,000 in March 2009. If The Lakes” is approved, it is estimated that land would be worth up to 100 times that amount.

The community deserves that planning is comprehensive in its ability to assess it likely impacts and is not open to long term gaming of the system. If Council moves to approve the current proposal then its conditions of approval should:

  1. Make it abundantly clear that the approval is solely for a tourist resort and any proposal for later conversion to a permanent residential use would not be approved if the resort fails.
  2. Remove all references in the text and mapping to that development included in the “Future Stages” and reiterate that any approval for this Preliminary Approval does not indicate any support or endorsement for residential development not associated or ancillary to the proposed tourist resort.
  3. Ensure any consent is conditional on prior consent by the State Government to the use of State land (being the bed of the Logan River) and a suitable riparian set back (say least 50m)
  4. Ensure the community has a say about the project (not hidden behind the facade of a totally uninformed planning scheme) with a public meeting at which the full array of pros and cons are on the table.

There are also significant water and sewerage infrastructure issues for this development that have implications for opening up residential development all along the path from the edge of the existing Urban Footprint to this property.

The risks and costs of the proposed tourism development should clearly stay with the proponent and not get transferred to the community.

And why bother having a SEQ Regional Plan if it’s requirements can be so easily avoided, yet again?

 

Redlands2030 – 3 November 2016

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Logan River tourism units sidestep regional plan

  1. This proposal has gone much further than logic dictates it should have. It demonstates (again) that the so called planning system is really about facilitating decelopment ….at best planning schemes and the SEQ Regional Plan provide a few speed humps on the way to devevelopment approvals. A means to making money.

    Sadly community and public interest have been completely eroded as a guiding principles in the mind of public officials.

  2. Value adding is often the name of the game in development circles. Only it is often not actually doing anything, but getting an approval that can inflate the land valuation in the company books, or create a tradeable value that can be on-sold which is the real money earner.

    Once you have an approval, no matter how conceptual, it increases the value of the land. Unfortunately in approving the original application Council did not impose any time limit on its validity. It had the power to do so, but chose not too. Again possibly hoping against hope that its blue sky dreaming would eventuate.

    I think the current application is revealing the true nature of its intention here (see future stages) and Council should come down hard in putting a 5 year time limit for commencing stage 1 at least; and squashing any hope of residential development in the future stages that is not associated with the tourist resort.

    Council probably still want to dream the dream, but it should still cover its backside and impose suitable and restrictive conditions on anything else other than a tourist resort; or a tradeable commodity that is can indefinitely shop around to developers elsewhere.

  3. Ad hoc development on the banks of the Logan River? Seems the natural extension of the current planning paradigm.
    Why is it taken as given that so called planning can’t prohibit any development. Given the imperfect knowledge about impacts especially the cumulative impacts the precautionary approach would surely say no …until we have better assessment tools. But that would deny development, certainty and of course profits.

    The abuse of waterways is an historical fact….have we learnt nothing?

    I am concerned that some professional planner ever took the brief to design and justify this type of development. Do planners have ethical standards?

    • Dave in answer to your question “Why is it taken as given that so called planning can’t prohibit any development.” It is because the State wide planning legislation makes it so. The legislation makes it so that all LG planning schemes are structured on a performance based model. So if you fail the test at the lowest level (accepted outcome) you are then assessed against the desired performance outcome. Can’t meet that then you are assessed against the Zone/Use/Overlay outcomes. Still can’t meet that you are assessed against the strategic outcomes.

      In theory this is intended to allow unusual or unforeseen types of development to be assessed on their merits because planners are not all seeing and knowing. So sometimes you may get a proposal that you say – yes that is a really good idea and you wish to support it. Then there are other times when you really want to say no, go away. This model (in theory) allows any such development to be accepted and tested. So again, in theory, you can make an application for a nuclear reactor in Redland Bay and under the rules of the planning legislation it has to be accepted and assessed on its merits.

      This then requires you to draft a planning scheme in more complex ways to prevent what you don’t want. Further as you escalate up the chain your desired “outcomes” become more and more nebulas and move more and more away from hard measurable outcomes to more subjective outcomes that can be taken anyway you wish (e.g. want an economic outcome – sure assess favourably against this; want an environmental outcome – sure assess harshly against this).

      The Act only allows select matters that can be classified as “prohibited development”. All of these are prescribed by the State Government.

  4. Logan City Council has a penchant for fanciful developments, remember the proposed relocation of Alma Park Zoo a few years back, also on the banks of the Logan River. As the article points out such a development makes a nonsense of the SEQ Regional Plan. Besides the environmental considerations, the big concern is will Logan City Council be left holding the baby if this development commences but inevitably fails.? The rate payers of Logan beware?

  5. Councilor Darren Power of Logan City brought this to our attention 3 years ago, I believe we mentioned it in our submission against the Shoreline development. The Traffic on the Beenleigh Redland Bay Road is at a full stop now during the rush hour, thousands of cars cut through German Church Rd and Mt Cotton Village onto Mt Cotton Road to get to schools and the Highway. This along with the 80,000 quarry trucks a year from the six quarries in Mt Cotton are a recipe for disaster. I am not sure but I believe the Government is looking into the Mayor of Logan and the donations he got from this development company. The Mayor of Logan received nearly $400,000 in donations from developers at the last election, when are we going to rise up and stop all donations from developers to councillors?. This development must not be allowed to proceed. Its time we took to the street and shout we are not going to take it anymore.

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