Redlands City Plan needs a strategic framework

Cr Paul Bishop

Cr Paul Bishop discussing his 2014 proposal to seek community input to the draft Redlands planning scheme

All too often people don’t understand the devil in the detail of city planning schemes. Then development applications are submitted which can’t be stopped even though the community considers the proposals to be inappropriate.

To help people understand their city’s planning scheme, the document should include a well written Strategic Framework.

In State Government guidelines, local councils are told:

  • The strategic framework sets the policy direction for the planning scheme and forms the basis for ensuring appropriate development occurs in the planning scheme area for the life of the planning scheme.
  • Where there is inconsistency between provisions in the planning scheme …the strategic framework prevails over all other components…

It’s a very important part of any planning scheme carrying a lot of weight when development applications are decided.

So what sort of Strategic Framework was included in the draft new planning scheme that Redland City Council has been struggling with for some time?

The short answer is that Redland City Council did a very poor job on the Strategic Framework for the Draft City Plan 2015.

It’s as if the 2012-2016 Council couldn’t be bothered spending any time on this important front-end part of the new plan, perhaps too focused on helping developers by up-zoning areas and making it even easier to clear trees.

Instead of preparing a strategic framework suited specifically to Redland City’s needs and aspirations, the Council served up a document consisting mainly of boilerplate from the State Government’s guidelines, the Queensland Planning Provisions.

It’s not the community’s vision

The Redlands community vision, set out in the long term Community Plan, was ignored in the Draft City Plan.

The Community Plan’s vision:

vibrant city of mainland and island communities, each with distinctive character, heritage and lifestyles

was replaced in the draft city plan with:

vibrant city renowned for its natural, scenic and cultural values, its robust local economy and its active and resilient and connected community

It’s not the vision which Redlands residents agreed to when they worked together to prepare the Community Plan.  It isn’t even the vision of the existing Redlands Planning Scheme, which might have been a starting point. 

Community participation is required

A planning scheme is supposed to be prepared with community participation.

The 2012-2016 Redland City Council ignored this requirement. The only section of the community which was consulted about the draft plan was the property development sector, covertly through the Development Industry Reference Group.

When Cr Paul Bishop moved a motion at the 19 March 2014 Council meeting that the community be consulted about the drafting of the new planning scheme this was voted down by 6 votes to 4. What a short sighted decision!

The resolution proposed by Cr Bishop, as discussed by him in this video,  was:

1. To support a phase of community consultation to ‘inform, educate and collaborate’ with residents regarding the:

a) State Government changes to the RCC Planning Scheme time horizon;

b) Range of low/medium and high population growth strategies and options available to Council;

c) range of options on how to deal with that growth i.e., increase density, within the urban footprint, increase the urban footprint to consider ‘greenfield development’, or consider a mix; and

d) Planning Scheme studies (Livable Communities and Housing, Economic Growth, Hazards and Safety, Environment and Heritage and Infrastructure); and

e) Collate input and feedback from the community about these matters in order to incorporate residents’ views into our Draft Planning Scheme, and

2. That this proposed consultation is distinct and separate to state interest review and statutory consultation.

3. That a report be brought back to council, detailing options on costs how this consultation should proceed to best integrate community residents’ input into the draft planning scheme. 

What now?

The councillors elected a few months ago are now grappling with more than 6,000 submissions opposed to various aspects of the Draft City Plan.

But without a strategic framework the Plan is pointless, just a muddle of codes and zones allowing developers to squeeze in more units while livability is reduced and the environment destroyed.

A new planning scheme cannot be made “line by line” or “issue by issue” without an overall purpose consistent with the community’s vision.

So the question to be resolved is how to prepare a Strategic Framework for the Redlands City Plan, which the community will agree with.

Can this be done without genuine community engagement?

 

Redlands2030 – 26 August 2016

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8 thoughts on “Redlands City Plan needs a strategic framework

  1. If planning schemes are only deal with planning issues like zoning and building compliance the schemes should be named for what they do! Development control…or rather development enabling schemes. Planners have oversold the role of so called planning schemes! Its called false advertisng. Environmental protections, social outcomes, design, character and much more are the outcomes the community is concerned about.
    In the case of Redlands, we have a community plan, the planning scheme should support that plan. Instead we have draft scheme concerned with the business model of the development industry. That seems to be why the DIRG was the only point of consultation, in framing the new scheme.
    However, if the strategic framework the Council has offered its community is poor, deficient, and not aligned or even linked to the existing Community Plan…it should be done again. The off the shelf themes! That is just being lazy and shows a lack of respect for the community. Is it a result of using FIFO planners?

    • Dave

      I was working in the Department when they first introduced new planning legislation that represented a fundamental shift in Queensland land use planning. The Integrated Planning Act 1997 (sorry I called it the Sustainable Planning Act in an earlier post – old age) was sold to all and sundry by the then DG as a truly holistic development assessment tool. At its heart was an Integrated Development Assessment System (IDAS) that sought to bring together all the various other pieces of legislation that development needed to comply with under one development assessment process. A truly herculean task that was needed, but on reflection, over-sold. It started with a rash of legislative approval powers being brought into the model (e.g. environment protection, vegetation management & heritage), but then stopped. I don’t know if it was political infighting between departments or just a realisation that it was still only a partial solution. For example the gaming and liquor licensing laws as they relate to location of venues should have been rolled in, but never attempted to my knowledge.

      But to your wider point, in my ideal (optimal) world I would have Community Plans, based on a number of more detailed Local Plans, at the pinnacle within the organisation. Sitting below this would be any number of plans that Council produces, such as Planning Schemes, Economic Development Strategy, Parks Strategies, Road Network Plans etc.

      Again in my optimal world they should all align and work together as a holistic package. But that is easier said than done. That is not to say they can be radically different, but it would be impractical to say that one area would have a four lane inter-urban road suddenly turn into a 2 lane traffic calmed road as it passes through one particular local area that wanted no traffic. Planning and decision making is all about options, choices, compromises and consequences. It is never cost free and will always put someone or some group offside. That is why such decisions are ultimately made by politicians because they are supposed to reflect the values of the community and will be held accountable for their decisions every 4 years.

      The other big drawback is the role of State Government and their various agencies. Again in my experience trying to get them to articulate their plans and visions for any given area is akin to pulling out teeth and mostly only ever done on a “just in time” basis. Sure I could develop a new greenfield residential development plan and the state will support a new school or bus service. But try and get them to put it on the plan and they back away. You understand the reasoning (i.e. building expectations or creating a demand for the government to buy back their property), but it makes “planning” an ad hoc reactive process in a lot of instances.

  2. Just to be a bit of wet blanket, I will provide some context from a town planning perspective.

    Pre 1990’s local government planning schemes were seen and often used as the overall “community plan” for its area. What was contained in the planning scheme often gave you and Council some direction about what it hoped to achieve both physically, socially and environmentally. It provided some central point of reference for all future actions mainly by Council.

    In the mid 90’s new planning legislation was being developed (Sustainable Planning Act). At that time an internal technical battle was developing over which was more important – strategic planning or development assessment. Development assessment won and there was even a point in time when it was not mandatory for a planning scheme to have a strategic plan component.

    The DA forces argued, and they are right in law, that at the end of the day planning law, such as planning schemes, can only deal with planning issues. It can not deal with social or environmental issues except to the extent that development impacts on these matters. Admittedly this is a grey area with no clear boundaries. But at the end of the day if the courts are considering whether issues such as public housing should or shouldn’t be provided at a particular location – it does not concern itself with issues of valuation, crime or need. It only concern is whether it is the right zone and the building complies with the planning scheme requirements (e.g. height, density, site cover etc).

    To try and redress this the State Government introduced into the Local Government Act the need for “Community Plans” to be prepared by every local government. This requirement was later quietly dropped.

    To me, as a town planner, Community Plans are a better instrument in which to express the holistic views of the community, rather than planning schemes that have their legal shackles. It should sit as the pinnacle forward planning instrument for the LG area and every other planning instrument should be consistent with this plan. It still has its problems, but it often a better tool that ordinary people, politicians and technocrats can engage with.

    • I like what you are saying Ebenezer. I have trouble identifying what is our brand for the Redlands. Decades ago it was our local produce accompanying our rich red soils. I still think we can resurrect some market garden spaces in a larger sense but also as a regulated requirement as part of subdivision spaces. Small urban growing areas to be provided which enhance community engagement and participation. We are also a bay community with many natural attractions (other than the northern beaches of Straddie) for tourism. We have lost our way a bit!

      • Thanks Dave. I am not a complete wet blanket, because I do believe that strategic planning IS important, whether it is used for community / economic development or land use planning. You need to start with a vision of what you wish to see happen in a particular area and that vision needs to be based on a number of different elements, such as character, built form, amenity, economy, environment and community.

        As I said in my piece not all of these can be delivered by a planning scheme. It is only one piece in the zigsaw that makes up communities. We just need to make sure that the adopted vision is cohesive and implemented on a multitude of levels and plans. No easy task!

        Too often we don’t know where we are going and that can result in a mish mash of sameness. Most new residential estates and local shopping centres have a blandness to me. They all comply with planning scheme requirements, but you can go to Robina or Victoria Point and there is essentially not much difference apart from scale. You will see the same shops and same layout without much perception that you are in a different or unique place.

        So preferred character is important. This will then help drive a multitude of decisions from built form, public landscaping to even the width of pavements in certain centres. Over time as implementation is rolled out, it can also be useful in attracting certain types of businesses or attracting certain types of people.

  3. When main focus of a City Plan is to work solely with developers who, due to wealth & influence, can buy people, & where 5 councillors who should have been looking after our interests, & what they are paid to do, were left in the dark prior to last election, bad management of a local government results….particularly when dealing with major projects where Mayor with followers have the pleasure of total control over how the City develops. Developers have no caring for environment, mature trees, koalas, wildlife, no matter how significant retaining them would be in any suburban location. When livability of any given area is destroyed, social ills and unhappy communities are end result. I’ve seen it happen in Capalaba, with State govt operatives turning a blind eye to destruction of our specially protected wetland site under Koala Coast Policy (now scrapped) on Moreton Bay Rd which turned the entire area between 19 Crotona Rd creek bank through CBD to Old Cleveland Rd by bridge on Coolnwynpin Creek into a no-go zone for community in which I live. It was an underhanded done deal executed by a wealthy developer who could buy pollies This is end result of a government that doesn’t care about people’s rights to a pleasant, safe environment to which we all have a right. Letters and phone calls are ignored by those we pay to look after our interests, which is shameful. Has any other local govt in Australia made a decision to sell parks/reserves as RCC did prior to last election when mercifully the selloff was aborted? My neighbourhood park has seen no upgrade on infrastructure for past 35 years, but understand there has been a change of heart and we can look forward to changes enhancing parks in the future. Developers should not have the right to destroy livability of citizens in any given area…even mine…no matter how deep their pockets…but will continue if there is no community consultation, genuine consultation, to enable we, the people, to be heard, in order to live in pleasant, safe surroundings….before the deals are done.

  4. A strategic framework for the Redland City Plan is essential. Without a strategic framework, residents will continue to be alienated from the type and intensity of development going on in the Redlands. If the residents do not have any meaningful input into planning in Redlands, then how can they have any ownership of the Plan?
    Can the current council revisit Cr Bishop’s proposal for meaningful input from the residents into the planning process? Such a move would enable residents have a sense of ownership of the Plan and enjoy the life style in the Redlands.
    So where to from here? What steps can we residents take to encourage Council to adopt a strategic framework that gives residents a meaningful input into the City Plan?