Tweed Shire Council’s handling of planning responsibilities in Hastings Point is again in disarray following a series of gaffes on key development projects.
To improve business efficiency, most Councils are permitted by law to delegate their minor planning projects to officers in a Building Services Unit (BSU), leaving mainstream Council planners to manage major developments.
Allocating complex and contentious plans to an adjunct planning department has inherent risks, and the fallout can have widespread community repercussions.
In recent years, no less than three developments in Hastings Point have been dealt with by the Council’s Building Services Unit having important implications – all poorly administered with officers failing to alert residents of major and controversial changes affecting their amenity, health and safety.
- No notice to residents of application/approval of a house on lot 156, despite the fact that a large subdivision application was in the hands of the Department of Planning in Sydney – TSC planners not aware.
- No notice to residents of application/approval of filling of blocks in Creek Street despite flooding and fill being a major issue for the area discussed with TSC planners– TSC planners not aware.
- No notice to residents of amended plans of large non-compliant 3 storey building at 26 Coast Road (including the resident’s association and representative lawyer of community/neighbour) despite them making submissions to original proposal.
On Tuesday this week, the BSU provides Council with a totally flawed report not supported by TSC planners proposing the development of a ‘substantial three-storey dwelling’ at 26 Tweed Coast Road.
The report was compiled by an officer within the BSU and detailed analysis shows a range of erroneous detail and omissions relating to height, length, setback, scale, landscaping and character. It is a misleading document that claims there are just two minor deviations from the Hastings Point Locality Plan, when in fact there are more than six major deviations.
- 1m height breach – 9m, 3 storey instead of 8 m 2 storey
- 5.5 m setback breach – 2.5 m from beach dune instead of 8 m
- 12m breach in length – 32 m instead of 20m – no consideration
- No rear deep landscaping because breach of rear setback
- No mid landscaping because breach in length/no building break
- No consideration of desired future character
- No consideration of required changes in roof modulation
Had the BSU officer initially declared these salient facts to planning administrators, the report would likely never have seen the light of day.
Had Council’s planning administrators carried out timely circumspect consideration of the officer’s dodgy figures and facts, they would not have been forced to defend the Council’s planning integrity.
The proposed building would have been deemed non-compliant, hopelessly over scale and ripe with potential to reinforce the precedent of the rogue construction beside it.
The officer fails to advise that in addition to the neighbouring rogue on which he relies to create a new transitional character for Hastings Point, there are two other similar rogues (one built and one ready for construction) in this area whose neighbours could run his same argument. This would result in 6 further seriously non-compliant buildings that would destroy the character of this small and visually sensitive location.
Therefore, the officer’s claim that approving this development would not have an unacceptable cumulative impact is unrealistic and naïve to say the least.
He seems oblivious to the history of a locality that for years has engaged in Land and Environment litigation on this very point and rigorous debate and consultation with Council over unseemly and excessive residential construction. He omits consideration of the desired future character objectives of this precinct.
Needless to say the ‘elephant in the room’ is Tweed Shire Council’s long term struggle with planning probity.
While ever Councillors and administrators rely on inaccurate staffing advice like this, the potential for optimum outcomes is hopeless.
That Cr Polglase carefully referred to this as a restoration project when it’s closer to a total demolition and rebuild, leaves a community wondering whether he is intentionally misleading his fellow councillors and the public or just as confused as the BSU. Certainly, the old culture of this Council still lingers.
Defending and obscuring sloppy work isn’t corporate loyalty, it’s a management failure set to steer the Shire towards another independent inquiry.
The people of Tweed Shire deserve strong management and expertise – where our leaders are courageous enough to correct and address mistakes like this. We trust this will occur.
This is about Procedure and Integrity – a five year costly procedure between community and council to develop a locality plan touted by planners as one of the best – one that must be respected, upheld and consistently applied.
If it is not, we march backwards to a time of community in arms – with all the ugly, needless conflict and acrimony this presents.