All too often, proposed new residential developments in Redlands are upsetting local communities when project plans go well beyond the expectations or experience of existing residents.
Development outcomes are being promoted which are beyond the layman’s interpretation of the planning scheme and people feel that higher density developments threaten their quality of life and our natural environment.
In early 2013, Redland City Council released its “Redlands – Open for Business and Investment” manifesto. It opens the Redlands to higher density residential development. Has the open for business directive gone too far?
A crisis of trust
One measure of local community angst is number of groups feeling let down (by the Council). Some respond by engaging their own planning advice. In effect the community is employing consultant planners, to defend what they see as the public interest. People expect the community interest should be the core business of the local Council, especially their elected councillors.
A recent Redlands2030 article “Cleveland…its now builders paradise” seemed to capture this community sentiment.
Defending unpopular development decisions
In response to community angst about some development approvals, some Councillors have tried to defend their decisions. They engaged with rhetoric like ”our hands are tied” or it’s the fault of the “performance based planning system” or even “its the fault of the State” (meaning government legislation and policy).
Some councillors say that the community just doesn’t understand the planning system. Blaming the community is almost blaming the victim and overlooks the idiom that it is not what is said that matters….it is what is heard.
Another excuse heard in Council meetings is to blame-shift to previous Councils. So the community is told the fault lies with the old planning scheme, adopted back in 2006.
And then there are Councillors who defend unpopular approvals by saying they will avoid the legal costs of an appeal – so they buckle to poor outcomes supposedly to save ratepayers money. It is one thing to think this but to tout this rhetoric in Council meetings delivers clear messages to the residential development industry. The message from these Councillors is “Council will not stand in the way of expanding the development envelope or increasing site densities”.
What is overlooked is that the cost of an appeal is not a planning consideration. It is irrelevant in a debate on planning merit. Observers might conclude that councillors using this ploy have nothing useful to contribute! Councillors should make their decision on merit and the public interest.
Open for Business is about increased developer yields
In early 2013 Redland City Council adopted its “Redlands: Open for Business and Investment” manifesto.
This was to give “ generous concessions…aimed squarely at improving developer yields“ and making Redlands …”an even more attractive place to invest”.
The manifesto was discussed with the Development Industry Reference Group (DIRG) and seems clearly aimed at increasing residential density and expansion of the city’s urban footprint while disregarding matters like character, heritage and architectural merit.
Why wouldn’t the residential development industry be happy to accept this policy direction?
The manifesto was a surely adopted to change to the philosophical groundings of planning and development. If it didn’t change the Council’s development culture why bother issuing the manifesto?
The existing (2006) planning scheme sets out probable solutions to guide applicants. It seems certain that after “Open for Business” was released (2013) the probable solution “guides” were largely ignored.
“Open for Business”, not unexpectedly, has influenced the decisions and thinking of officers and Council. And the mantra surely infected the draft City Plan 2015. While ever this document exists it continues to influence outcomes! Otherwise why have it?
The conflict between the directions arising from the open for business mantra has contributed to crisis of trust. It is time to re-think the open for business rhetoric. The power of three word slogans peaked 3-4 years ago! It’s time to move beyond slogans.
“Open for business” should be reviewed and modified before the draft City Plan is reviewed.
Council should review the Open for Business agenda in line with community values
The Council’s pro-development “Open for Business” policies didn’t sit well with communities throughout the Redlands. The previous council’s pro-developer Draft City Plan received more than 6,000 submissions.
Outcomes at the last election shifted the balance of power in the elected Councillors. The Councillors espousing a greater concern for community values (and the Community Plan) gained a majority. The Williams team no longer has the numbers.
The 6,400 submissions new City Plan are now being ‘workshopped’ by Council staff and councillors. The line-by-line examination will keep everyone busy and probably exhaust all involved. However, while ever the Open for Business manifesto is driving Council’s decision making it’s hard to see how the new planning scheme will serve the community.
The current “open for business” especially if it’s residential development philosophy is out of touch with community values and the Community Plan.
It’s time for a real pro-business policy package which seeks to enhance long term employment in the Redlands.
The current Council should carefully review the Open for Business and Investment document and modify it so that it reflects the community’s wishes as set out in the long term 2030 Community Plan.