Recognising and respecting the current and future character of a location generally appears to rate at the low end of consideration for decisions by many councillors and staff relating to developments in the region. It is often concern over being taken to court by developers if a development application (DA) is refused that sways councillors to approve DAs that exceed the height, scale and bulk limits set out by council regulations like development control plans (DCP).
The outcome of these decisions can be seen clearly in the Goldcoasatification of Byron with one local recently referring to current development as ‘looking like a prison’ – certainly not in line with the master plan, vision, or DCP of Byron.
Therefore the decision by Tweed Shire Councillors at last Thursday’s meeting (4 August) to refuse a DA for a four-storey block of flats at 2-6 Tweed Coast Road, Cabarita Beach, against the staff recommendation of approval, was surprising.
Mayor Chris Cherry (Independent) put the motion for refusal which was seconded by Councillor Dr Nola Firth (Greens).
‘As a Councillor we often have to deal with issues that are not black and white. In this issue there is a matter of interpretation in terms of the development control standards that need to be adhered to,’ Cr Cherry told the meeting.
‘We heard a lot in the 67 submissions, all of them raising problems with character and scale and amenity that this building is proposing. How it really does not fit in with the existing character of Cabarita, or the proposed future character of Cabarita.
‘This is a refusal that comes back to the development not adhering to the control standards that are set in place by the community. I think its really important as a council that we need to try to adhere to those. We need to try to ensure that the developments going out there in our time as councillors are matching what the community have said that they want.
‘This very much does not match what the community want and I can’t support it in its current state. Certainly what I would be hoping to achieve is to come to a place where there can be a reduction in some of that scale and bulk of that building to be more in keeping with the current character and future character of Cabarita.’
Councillor Warren Polglase (Conservative) spoke against the refusal highlighting that the staff were ‘well educated, employed and experts’ and they had recommended approval. He said that Cr Cherry’s reasons for refusal were because ‘you believe it is non-complaint with the controls in place’… ‘That is an interpretation of an interpretation of an opinion. That is a difference of opinion’.
Over 30% variations sought
Cr Firth highlighted that none of the 67 submissions on the DA were in favour and that the proposal was the first four storey building being proposed for Cabarita Beach.
‘It is a very important proposal because it is the first one in Cabarita that is four storeys rather than three storeys and it will set a precedent,’ she said.
‘We are sitting in a situation that we have climate change happening, we know we have floods happening. We have been told that we are going to be having much hotter summers so that heat is a really important variant happening here. In fact death by heat is the higher killer out of those three disasters – fire, flood and heat.
‘This particular development is a big block. Its a very big block and in its centre is has one planter. The end result of that is a huge piece of infrastructure that is going to be a heat bank.
‘It is asking for a 36 per cent variation on open space. We as a community need to start saying that we need to have the infrastructure, including natural infrastructure, that’s going to be taking account of what we are going forward with. We need communal open space, we need trees – trees are free air conditioning, we need trees in there.
‘This building is also 34 per cent longer than is allowed under the DCP. It is not about no development on that site, it is about appropriate development to what is happening to us now.
‘It certainly doesn’t fit in the vision that the Bogongar/Cabarita Beach locality plan has. If we simply ignore those locality plans, and say that there is another thing that disqualifies it what’s the point of having it?
‘There are many problems with it but the biggest one is the is the sheer scale and size of it. It could be changed and I hope it will be.’
The motion for refusal of the DA was supported by all councillors except Cr Polglase who voted against it.