Tweed Shire Council has paved the way for a grand plan by the hardware group Bunnings to expand and relocate its south Tweed Heads store to a site right on the edge of the Gold Coast owned by the Border Park Raceway Club.
The hardware group and greyhound racing club have come up with a plan to rezone and increase the height limit of a portion of the site on the Queensland-NSW border to accommodate a retail park.
Council planners say both the retailer and race club see the redevelopment of the site, across the Pacific Highway from the new Southern Cross University (SCU) campus, as a solution to prevailing issues, with Bunnings wanting a bigger area and the club facing financial woes.
Last night, councillors voted to give the green light for a detailed plan of the concept be prepared and referred to the state government for an eventual determination under its ‘gateway’ planning policy.
But two councillors had reservations, saying the 11-hectare site was one of the last areas on the northern end of Tweed Heads zoned for open space and recreation which could be put to better use, and proposed access to the facility could become a source of traffic problems in future.
Greens Cr Katie Milne also questioned the 15-metre height limit proposed, but chief planner Vince Connell said other commercial zones in Tweed Heads had three times that height limit which accommodated up to 15 stories.
Cr Milne was also concerned about the loss of vegetated land and potential of Aboriginal cultural heritage items being located there, given some significant finds in the area.
She failed in a move, backed by Cr Gary Bagnall, to support a second option put by planners to proceed with the proposal in principle, but subject to detailed assessment of issues such as Aboriginal heritage and other constraints identified by planners and consultants.
The two councillors also failed, in a similar 2-5 vote, to have the item deferred for a workshop to examine the issues more closely, saying they had major concerns over whether it was the best use of the site and wanting to ‘get it right’.
Cr Bagnall said Tweed shire was renowned for its open space and the site was a northern gateway to the Tweed and highly visible yet the plan was about ‘removing more open space’.
He said he also had concerns with potential problems from a future traffic corridor and questioned the research done by Bunnings for its expansion given it had ‘abandoned’ a relatively new store in Murwillumbah’s industrial area recently and was planning to do the same with its south Tweed Heads store ‘because it was not visual enough’.
‘So they picked the wrong spots twice, so much for good research,’ he said.
Pro-development Cr Warren Polglase had said in opening the debate that the hardware group ‘people don’t just come to a site’ but spend ‘two to three years researching’ such moves and the Border Park site would be a ‘lot larger store’ for both wholesale and retail use.
His factional ally, Cr Phil Youngblutt said Bunnings’ Murwillumbah store had been a ‘trade only factory, and this one is for retail’.
Cr Youngblutt said ‘Bunnings people are not councillors, otherwise they’d get nothing done’ which Cr Milne said was offensive to councillors.
Cr Polglase said the proposal still had a long way to go before it came to fruition and was ‘a worthwhile investment in the Tweed’.
Labor’s Cr Michael Armstrong agreed, saying council did not own the land and because ‘we live in a free market economy’, the proponents should be ‘free to come up with a plan exploring their options’.
But Cr Bagnall argued it was up to council to decide on land use and zoning and what could be built on the site.
Cr Armstrong said both council and the state government would have the opportunity later to consider and look at a more detailed design of the project ‘so let’s get the process started’.
Cr Milne said it was vital to get the zoning right on a site ‘right next to the border’ and ‘we should try and get the best outcome for the community’, rather than ‘just relocating Bunnings’.
She it would be an ‘incredible opportunity’ for sporting activities which could have the potential to stage ‘state of origin or other cross-border challenges’ and councillors had to be mindful also of the community’s ‘vision for educational and cultural economic development’.
The triangular-shaped site is currently used as a temporary spillover parking area for SCU students who access the nearby campus via a minibus.
The greyhound facility is still used for two to three race meetings per month on Saturdays.
The site also offers camping and caravan facilities for travelling owners and trainers, a children’s play area, licensed bar and kitcken, large function room for hire and betting auditorium.
Councillors voted 5-2 (Crs Milne and Bagnall) to consent for the preparation of the rezoning for the raceway site to be transformed into a business park and referral to the planning department.