Cleveland Train Station apartments proposal rejected by P&E Court

Controversial plans for building 124 apartments in the northern car park at Cleveland Train Station have been rejected by the Planning and Environment Court.

The Court found that the proposed development, which was given preliminary approval by Redland City Council in 2017, did not comply with relevant planning requirements.

The proposal did not provide enough car parking and it did not qualify as a mixed use development with an activated street frontage.

Fixing what went wrong

This saga, dating back to 2014, highlights poor decision-making by both the State Government and Redland City Council.

The Council approved a Cleveland Centre Master Plan in 2010 but its provisions have not been fully incorporated in the Redland City Plan or the previous Planning Scheme.

The State Government invited tenders for private sector development on land next to Cleveland Train Station in 2014 but failed to set out clear expectations of community requirements. More planning work and community engagement may have led to a better outcome.

In assessing the development application at various times, Council officers failed to point out that this was not really a mixed use development. It waddled like a residential project and it quacked like a residential project. It was obviously a residential project.

On two occasions (2017 and 2021) Councillors acted against advice from council officers, quite reasonably (as evidenced by the Court’s decision). This should prompt an independent review of how the Council handles its assessment of development applications.

The Council’s decision, by an officer acting under delegation, to issue an invalid development approval in 2020 should be explained fully to the community.

The Council should reinstate its former practice of including a routine report of approvals under delegation to Council meetings.

The Council should implement a process to make the community aware of code assessable applications which are likely to be of public interest.

As soon as practicable, the State Government should unwind its current agreement for developments on land next to Cleveland Train Station and reconsider how this public land can be best utilised (for public benefit).

Envisage Management Development

The train station apartment project was proposed by little known developer Envisage Management Development Pty Ltd. This company was contracted as preferred developer by the State (Labor) Government in September 2015 following a tender process initiated in April 2014 by the previous (LNP) State Government.

Development application submitted 2015

Site of the proposed 124 apartments and small kiosk at the Cleveland Train Statio
Site of the proposed 124 apartments and small kiosk at the Cleveland Train Station

In December 2015, Envisage lodged plans with Redland City Council for development of 124 apartments in the northern car park of Cleveland Train Station.

The large eucalyptus tree at Cleveland Train Station
Large eucalyptus tree at Cleveland Station

Envisage also proposed to remove a large eucalyptus tree on the southern side of the Station, to make room for a refreshment kiosk.

This development application was described as being for mixed use. As well as including a refreshment kiosk, six of the 124 apartments were designated as tourist accommodation.

For this site a mixed use development application was code assessable so there was no legal requirement for public consultation.

Soon after plans were lodged with the Council, Redlands2030 published a story describing the proposed development and pointing out matters for community concern including:

  • “When demand for parking by visitors to the apartments is taken into account, there could be a net reduction in availability of commuter car parking”:
  • “Traffic from the new apartments’ residents will add to congestion in an already busy area”;
  • “… it appears sub-optimal use for a prime site”.

Throughout 2016, community opposition to the project increased. On 18 August 2016 local MP Mark Robinson (LNP) told State Parliament that he no longer supported the project because it failed to address requirements for increased commuter car parking.

“My consultations with the community have revealed high levels of objection to this development among nearby residents” said Dr Robinson.

Council gives preliminary approval 2017

Envisage’s proposal was considered by Redland City Council on 25 January 2017.

The officer’s report described the proposal as a mixed use development and recommended that it be approved by Council, including removal of the large tree.

Due to a quirk of electoral redistribution, from March 2016 to March 2020 the Cleveland Train Station was included in Division 8 represented by Cr Tracey Huges.

Cr Huges moved an alternative motion to that recommended by council officers which was to issue preliminary approval of the development application subject to two conditions:

  • provide more car parks
  • don’t remove the large eucalyptus tree

The notion of issuing a conditional preliminary approval was thrashed out during two hours of non-public discussions by councillors ‘yesterday’, according to comments made during the public meeting which can be viewed on the meeting video recording commencing at time 1:44.

During the public meeting several councillors expressed views that they would like to refuse the development application but were wary of the matter ending up in the P&E court saying this would be expensive and probably result in the Court approving the development with no opportunity for the Council to have any further say on the matter.

Councillors voted 7/4 to adopt the motion put forward by Cr Huges. The meeting minutes show that Crs Mitchell, Gollé, Edwards, Elliott, Huges, Talty and Williams voted for the motion. Crs Boglary, Hewlett, Gleeson and Bishop voted against the motion.

Council makes a silly error 2020

A few weeks before the 2020 local government elections the project was approved by a council officer under delegation on 31 January 2020.

Given that the preliminary approval in January 2017 was decided by all councillors at a Council Meeting, why was the matter not called in by the relevant division councillor (Tracey Huges) for consideration at another Council meeting?

Redlands2030 found out about this ‘approval’ by reviewing a routine report of council approvals under delegation presented to the Council Meeting on 26 February 2020.

These routine reports, which assisted the community in monitoring Council decision making, have not been included in agendas for council meetings since 16 June 2021.

On reviewing the plans which were ‘approved’ under delegation Redlands2030 was surprised to find that ‘approval’ had been given for developments on land which was not the subject of the development application. A very basic error.

These plans ‘approved’ in January 2020 included development outside the application area

In a story published on 9 March 2020 we pointed out that this ‘approval’ may be invalid.

This was confirmed a few months later by Cr Peter Mitchell. Following another electoral redistribution the Station was in his division with effect from the March 2020 elections.

“It seems that the officers decision to issue an approval on the train station development is likely invalid,” said Cr Mitchell as reported by the Redland City Bulletin.

Council responds to community pressure

The Envisage project was discussed again at a Council meeting in June 2021.

Cleveland Train Station
Flyer circulated ahead of thee June 2021 Council meeting.

Prior to the meeting local residents campaigned actively against the project. A flyer encouraging people to contact elected councillors was circulated widely.

The officers’ report again described the project as a mixed use development and recommended agreement with changes proposed by the developer:

  • Addition of seven car parks on the development site
  • re-designing the kiosk to comprise two re-purposed shipping containers mounted on small pads underneath the large eucalyptus tree

Revised development plan showing the kiosk as two containers under the large eucalyptus tree

Councillors again went against the officers’ recommendations and decided 8/3 to reject the developer’s proposals for car parking and tree retention.

The meeting minutes show that Crs Wendy Boglary, Peter Mitchell, Paul Gollè, Lance Hewlett, Julie Talty, Tracey Huges, Adelia Berridge and Paul Bishop voted for the motion. Crs Karen Williams, Mark Edwards and Rowanne McKenzie voted against the motion.

The video recording of this meeting is available on the Council’s website.

Court appeal 2021-2022

On 1 July 2021 the developer appealed against the Council’s 2017 preliminary approval decision.

In the court case, Redland City Council argued effectively against the proposed development, noting that the preliminary approval granted in 2017 was “unusual” and “of no meaningful utility”.

Because no drawings were referenced, the Council argued that the preliminary approval did no more than indicate that the site was suitable for mixed use development as contemplated by the relevant planning schemes.

The Council submitted that the Court should refuse the Development Application, rather than dismissing the appeal.

The Court’s decision on 21 December 2022 included an order that:

The decision of the Council to approve the Development Application is set aside and replaced with a decision that the Development Application is refused.

Submissions to the Court about this case can be found on P&E Court file 1668/21.

Redlands2030 – 3 January 2023

0 thoughts on “Cleveland Train Station apartments proposal rejected by P&E Court”

  1. The above process demonstrates the unsatisfactory performance of both Redland City Council and the state government on crucial matters of parking provision at the only train station in Cleveland. One would wonder just how a council and a state government could arrive at such erroneous conclusions on important matters that would have disastrous consequences for train commuters. Similar errors were made in relation to the Toondah commercial proposal and this plan, which flies in the face of the Ramsar Convention, has lingered on for 9 years.

  2. In this 3 hour 9 minute council meeting there were clearly a number of councillors who were against the application of a commercial developer to impact on carparks at Cleveland Station by constructing 124 units in two buildings where there is currently a northern carpark. Cr Mitchell is the councillor most effected since this is in his Division. A number of residents have expressed their dismay to Cr Mitchell if carparking at the Raiway Station is reduced by a commercial unit development. Mayor Karen Williams stated at 1 hour 57 minutes that this issue back to Council “as kind of insulting to be honest.” She stated that “it has already been approved.” Other councillors disagreed with her assessment. She then stated that “we are not assessing the whole application.” and “we need people to show leadership.” She then stated “this will happen.” “How much money do you want to waste before it happens.” She was quite clearly supporting the application by the developer. Councillors Bishop, Mitchell, Boglary and Berridge expressed strong concerns about aspects of what was originally designated as a multi-purpose development. That no longer appears to be the case.

  3. Dr Tafe talks about crucial matters of parking at the only train station in Cleveland. This brings me to an issue that horrifies me as resident in Capalaba with sudden announcement of the CBD being redeveloped in the ONLY open space left by Library to be transformed into a high rise building surrounded by lower level buildings? Was parking discussed when planning this major change ? Capalaba Central is one king sized car park from Leda built strip shops to creek. Capalaba CBD is surrounded, all sides, with heavily trafficked roads; namely: Moreton Bay (wait 2-3 light changes turn into Redland Bay Rd shops) Mt Cotton/Old Cleveland Rds/Finucane Rd where peak hour on these roads surrounding CBD begin early afternoon. Road pollution cause more deaths than accidents and we see them from tail-gating regularly. Where will all the cars generated by the planned redevelopment of Capalaba CBD be parked in a health destroying environment?

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