One of the Tweed’s most scenic routes at Terranora is slowly being eaten away by development with yet another proposal to turn prime agricultural land into residential lots being pushed through, according to some of the shire’s councillors.
And the proposal to rezone seven lots of the land on Terranora Road into what will eventually become upmarket low-density housing has been taken out of Council’s hands by the state planning department after Tweed Shire Council knocked it back several months ago.
The developer had succeeded in getting the state government to consider the plan under its ‘gateway’ determination policy and the plan will now be referred to its Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) for review.
Last week, a bid by Crs Katie Milne and Gary Bagnall for council to investigate alternative options to preserve the scenic qualities of the site, including negotiation with the landowners for a part-commercial rezoning to accommodate it, was narrowly knocked back.
Instead councillors voted to receive and note the report updating council on the planning department’s decision to refer it to the JRPP under the gateway policy.
Staff said that until the JRPP review is completed and council notified, it was ‘uncertain to the nature of any further involvement of council in this matter’.
Cr Milne said Terranora Road was one of the main scenic routes to view the federally branded ‘Green Cauldron’ (the Mt Warning caldera), which still included an outlook of undeveloped rural land and open space.
‘But we’re now looking at potentially losing that lovely scenic aspect. There are very few scenic outlooks left on Terranora Road and this is a primary one,’ she said.
‘These scenic routes are very important for the economic and tourism development of the shire and this (move) aims to preserve it for the community and tourists to enjoy and so it won’t be lost to private development.’
She said the landowner of the lots at Nos. 420-434 should be encouraged, and council should negotiate, to develop the land for tourism activities to take in the views, such as a precinct with cafe or restaurant ‘and the owner could still have some residential zoning’.
‘Apart from our biodiversity and natural heritage, one of our biggest assets and drawcards is our scenic qualities. There are only a few small lookouts along Terranora Road and this a key strategic site for the shire and a significant scenic route.’
Cr Bagnall said that since his election to council last September, he had seen a number of developments he had opposed slowly deteriorate ‘one of the best scenic rims in the caldera’.
He said not many roads sit atop ridges with ‘wonderful views’ but those views at Terranora had been spoilt with controversial developments such as: a large out-of-scale ‘shed’; another shed encroaching the road’s 30-metre setback; a proposed monopole telecommunications tower; and the removal of a swath of trees along the road by electricity supply crews which had made the area ‘a terrible eyesore’.
‘So little by little, we’ve seen these things go on and spoil this scenic road which has views right up to Surfers Paradise,’ he said.
According to a staff report, the land, surrounded to the north, east and west by the already rezoned urban-release area known as ‘Area E’, cannot now be ‘reasonably, economically or productively used for agricultural uses, nor developed for residential uses due to existing allotment size restrictions and lack of dwelling entitlements’.
Staff planners say the landowners of the site, Geoff and Julie Stone, had argued that their plan to rezone their seven lots for housing was justified as the existing agricultural zone was ‘anomalous’ and its omission from the larger rezoning at Area E was an ‘oversight’.
But staff said constraints that potentially could prevent the seven lots, each less than 900 square metres in area, being rezoned were: lack of connection to council’s reticulated sewerage mains; water supply; stormwater management; access to Terranora Road, and visual amenity and scenic impact.
Deputy mayor Michael Armstrong’s vote was decisive in shooting down the bid by Crs Milne and Bagnall, supported by mayor Barry Longland, by backing the pro-development faction, but he gave no reasons, as he usually does, for doing so.
Cr Armstrong’s vote had also been decisive in a previous contentious vote to approve a large shed on Terranora Road that had sparked an outcry from residents for its large scale and suspected use as an unauthorised second home on the large block.
Cr Milne and Cr Armstrong were seen to be having a quiet disagreement after the vote was taken in which Cr Armstrong initially voted with the progressive councillors then said he’d made a mistake and switched his vote.