Cr Geoff McDonald. Photo Bev Lacey
Cr Geoff McDonald. Photo Bev Lacey

Why councillors rejected controversial DHA development

THE now-rejected Defence Housing Australia development along the Toowoomba escarpment failed five key planning benchmarks, according to councillors.

The Toowoomba Regional Council knocked back the 50-lot housing estate proposal for Martini St in Mount Lofty at a special meeting last week, much to the delight of residents.

Deputy Mayor Geoff McDonald moved the motion to reject it, outlining the five elements where the development failed to convince him.

It was supported unanimously by the councillors.

Save Mt Lofty group: PROTESTERS against the rejected Defence Housing Australia project at Mount Lofty say they are now gearing up for a potential court battle.
Save Mt Lofty group: PROTESTERS against the rejected Defence Housing Australia project at Mount Lofty say they are now gearing up for a potential court battle.

Speaking generally, Cr McDonald said the risks to both human life and key ecological areas were too great to allow it to go ahead.

"On the balance of what I've heard today and what I've read and the journey we've been on, I struggle to support it," he said.

"The reasons for recommendation of approval are equally reasons to not approve it.

"There are some 167 conditions on this application, and there are sub conditions of about another 200.

"It's extraordinary to think we've gotten to this point where both council officers and DHA worked hard to get to a plan that they feel would be palatable.

"However, when we have to make a decision on the balance of information we have, I would argue we haven't met the benchmark conditions."

VICTORY: Celebrating the Toowoomba Regional Council's refusal of the DHA development at Mount Lofty are (from left) Janet Meibusch, Pascale Egan, Joanna Noonan, Jill Meibusch, Shaen Egan and Penny Claringbull.
VICTORY: Celebrating the Toowoomba Regional Council's refusal of the DHA development at Mount Lofty are (from left) Janet Meibusch, Pascale Egan, Joanna Noonan, Jill Meibusch, Shaen Egan and Penny Claringbull.

1. FAILING TO MEET RAL CODE

Cr McDonald said the proposal had failed several performance outcomes attached to the application of "reconfiguring a lot", which is what DHA were planning to do.

"The proposed development does not respond to senstitivies, on site topography, access, vegetation, views and adjoining land uses," his motion read.

 

2. ISSUES OVER ZONING

During the meeting, planning officer Sophie Spencer told councillors that the land, which is currently zoned as community facilities, could be used for residential properties as that was the use of the land around it.

But Cr McDonald disagreed, arguing it was not the correct use for the land.

"There's been quite some discussion around that, and I understand there are other areas where this has been achieved, however this is quite a different location," he said.

"The proposed development will detract from the amenity of nearby residences."

 

3. BUSHFIRE RISK

A major aspect of the protesters' argument against the development was the potential bushfire risks.

All the councillors agreed with these arguments in the motion.

"In my opinion councillors, the proposed development does not provide for the safety of people and property from bushfire risk," Cr McDonald said.

"I would hate to be part of a council, where in years to come a bushfire devastates that region - I really can't be part of that."

 

4. DAMAGE TO BIODIVERSITY CORRIDORS

The motion endorsed by councillors also highlighted the serious risks facing the escarpment's ecological areas.

"It was discussed today, and once again this is an area of biodiversity corridors," Cr McDonald said.

"It will result in an unacceptable reduction in the environmental quality and environs for nearby areas of ecological significance, due to dust, contamination, remediation and stormwater run-off.

"The proposed development will result in an unacceptable risk to human safety and the environment due to contaminated land."

 

5. NOT INCLUDED IN LGIP

The final major inconsistency was the land not being included in the council's Local Government Infrastructure Plan, which the councillors agreed carried an extra strain on the TRC's ability to provide services.

"The majority of the proposed development is located outside the council's priority infrastructure area and results in additional demand on council's networks," Cr McDonald said.

"Cr Carol Taylor has mentioned this during this afternoon's presentation and it has not been anticipated by the LGIP."

Defence Housing Australia said it was "disappointed" by the outcome and would consider its options.