Higher densities and no provision for public transport is the likely future for Tweed Heads if a new masterplan goes ahead.
Councillors had little option but to approve the masterplan, as the state planning department hijacked responsibility for re-designing the Tweed Heads CBD from Tweed Council four years ago, using a town planning template it has imposed on other regional centres, including Port Macquarie, Newcastle and Wollongong.
Critics fear that instead of revitalising the ailing CBD, the plan will stifle redevelopment as it allows for towers to be built without scenic views and streets to be cloaked in shadow for much of the day.
‘It’s like a bad joke. No-one is going to build towers in Tweed Heads if they don’t have a guarantee their views won’t be built out,’ said Laurie Ganter, president of the Tweed Heads Ratepayers and Residents Association.
‘You can’t describe Tweed Heads as a regional centre. It is joined to the Gold Coast, a fact the NSW Planning Department doesn’t seem to understand.
‘The plan might be all right in Wollongong or the Sydney CBD, but it won’t work here. Developers are still selling units in the Domain tower near Twin Towns and that was finished four years ago.’
Mr Ganter said attempts to talk sense to the department were like ‘knocking your head against a wall, they are irrational. They had a good LEP finished in 2004 and have ignored it.’
‘Nothing will happen to central Tweed Heads. This plan will scare most developers away.’
The new masterplan is almost a carbon copy of the controversial Tweed Heads LEP (local environment plan) 2000, which was adopted by a pro-development council in 1999. There was more public support for the 2004 masterplan, drafted after community consultation.
Debate about the masterplan at the December council meeting was limited to Cr Katie Milne’s suggestion to protect rail corridors through Tweed Heads.
Rail corridors ignored
‘It would be foolish to exclude a rapid-transport corridor,’ Cr Milne told the meeting.
‘What is a town without a proper public transport system? It would be detrimental for future generations to sterilise public transport corridors.’
Cr Milne’s suggestion the plan be deferred, at the request of both the Tweed Heads Residents Association and the Save Jack Evans Boat Harbour Committee, failed to get any support from fellow councillors. Nor did her plea to protect the rail corridors.
General manager Mike Rayner told the meeting a recent report into Tweed Shire public transport found ‘no likelihood of light rail in the planning future’.
Any future heavy rail through the shire, linking NSW with the Queensland rail system, is likely to be built west of Coolangatta airport.
The masterplan allows buildings up to 49.5 metres, or about 15 storeys, in some areas, while other sites will be staggered down to as low as two and three storeys.
The big winners
Among the big winners are the Twin Towns Services Club and the shopping centre owned by retail giant Centro.
The western end of Bay Street may be one day lined with high-rise buildings, which critics say will turn it into a sunless canyon for much of the time.
Cr Warren Polglase, who was mayor when the 2000 LEP was adopted, says the revitalisation of Tweed Heads hinged on encouraging landowners to amalgamate smaller blocks into sites of at least 1000 square metres. He said unless development sites were large enough to have underground parking they would not be viable.
Cr Polglase said that market forces, rather than town planning, would decide when a Tweed Heads development boom would begin. He pointed to a large vacant site on the corner of Bay and Wharf Streets, which remains dormant, along with an existing approval for a high-rise project on the nearby Dolphins Hotel site.
The planning department is expected to approve the masterplan, officially called the Tweed City Centre Vision Local Environment Plan and Development Control Plan, early this year.