The deferral by Tweed Shire Council of a controversial bid to expand a Kingscliff housing estate with 32 dwellings built over a lake has come under fire from residents who say the long-drawn out development plan should have been killed off once and for all so they can get on with their lives.
The residents have described it as a ‘disgraceful evasion’ of responsibility and called for the contentious development to be handed over to an independent consent authority.
Mayor Barry Longland on Tuesday used his casting vote to defer the bid so as to allow the new incoming council to inspect the site and hold a workshop over it, saying a caretaker council should not have to deal with a controversial development.
Council’s planning director Vince Connell had concluded it could be dealt with by a caretaker council at Tuesday’s final meeting before the September 8 council election, and recommended approval of a slightly scaled-down version of a plan for 45 dwellings, which was knocked back by the state’s Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) in 2010, mostly due to its impact to the amenity of the over 400 park residents.
The relentless bid by developer Keith Noble to fill in the northern edge of the estate bordering a manmade lake with extra homes was also brought before the Land and Environment Court early last year but withdrawn at the last minute.
The larger plan was considered by council before, as well as the state’s JRPP, when it was estimated to cost just over the $10 million threshold for the panel to deal with it, then the reduced 32-lot version was brought back to council to consider, but with a reduced $9.6 million tag.
Cr Warren Polglase has been manager of the park for years but has never voted on the proposal, citing a conflict of interest.
A disappointed resident spokesman, John Mulligan, told Echonetdaily the deferral meant residents continued to live with the threat of the expansion hanging over their heads, despite being promised when they bought into the park that it would remain at 254 homes.
‘This has been going on for three years now. The developer wants a decision, the residents want a decision, and the director of town planning warned that the time for decision has expired and it could now be deemed to have been rejected,’ Mr Mulligan said.
Cr Joan van Lieshout, who voted with Crs Katie Milne and Phil Youngblutt against deferral, accused councillors who voted to defer it of prolonging the anxiety of the mostly elderly residents who have fought it for years.
‘This is our responsibility. Are we going weak at the knees and leaving this to the next council? If you haven’t been out to the site in the past four years then shame.’ Cr Milne said there was plenty of material for councillors before them to make a decision to reject it, as the JRPP did.
She said she was appalled at the ‘terrible treatment’ of the elderly park residents who were promised when they bought in that no more homes would be built, as well as the validity of the consultation process with ‘threats made in a letter to residents urging them to support the development or miss out on facilities’.
Cr Longland, who backed Crs Dot Holdom and Kevin Skinner for deferral, said he was ‘uneasy’ about the recommended approval, given the JRPP refused the slightly larger version of the plan ‘but the amenity issues remain and concerns me’.
Mr Mulligan was critical of councillors who had ‘never bothered’ to visit the park.
‘Dot Holdom has been invited many times to an onsite inspection and has never responded, and now she wants an onsite inspection and a workshop, For goodness sake what planet have you been living on, councillors?’ he said.
‘How long must the residents live with this threat hanging over their heads?
‘Who will lead this educational inspection. Will it be the developer’s engineers and planners to dazzle them with science, the elderly residents who just want to enjoy their promised amenities in retirement, or council’s director of planning to justify decisions that may “tick boxes” but defy social justice. Will this workshop include meaningful consultation with the residents without threats of retribution?
‘Will the new councillors be experienced enough to take on such a controversial project, having lost the current knowledge gained by departing councillors who took the time?
‘This is a disgraceful evasion by sitting councillors to responsibly face up to their discretionary duty. This development should now be taken off this council and given to an independent consent authority.’