Since 2015, community groups in Upper Kedron, South Brisbane, Paddington, Toowong and Kangaroo Point have questioned the direct involvement of developers as “local participants” as neighbourhood plans are developed.
Kangaroo Point resident Ian Scott, a specialist physician at Princess Alexandra Hospital, addressed Tuesday’s council meeting on residents’ concerns at the increasing congestion after the suburb’s neighbourhood plan was developed between 2017 and 2019.
Kangaroo Point residents say the minutes show developers were among the 30 people among the 83 interested community representatives who wanted to guide the Kangaroo Point neighbourhood plan.
Dr Scott said developers should have a “very limited role” as neighbourhood plans are developed.
“They can make written submissions, but they should not be in face-to-face meetings and they should not be in meetings where the draft plan, as it nears completion, is being finalised, simply because they have a conflict of interest,” he said.
Dr Scott said developers in neighbourhood planning should “absent themselves” and mirror the action of councillors who advise a council meeting of having a material conflict of interest in a matter on the council agenda.
“That is absolutely the way it should also operate in the neighbourhood planning process,” he said.
Queensland University of Technology planning lecturer Phil Heywood, who has advised the South Brisbane community on urban renewal issues after leaving academic life, said it was “overdue” for the council to review its neighbourhood planning process.
Associate Professor Heywood said inner-city communities were “heartily sick” of total volume of development that was being permitted “incrementally” around the 27 inner-city neighbourhood plans.
“It is far exceeding the total what the regional strategy and the city’s overall plan indicates is necessary is for the inner city areas,” he said, pointing to a glut of unit complexes.
Associate Professor Heywood said over the past 15 years the role of developers in neighbourhood planning process has increased.
He said developers should become part of the process “after the draft neighbourhood planning” was completed.
“Developers absolutely have a key role in play in planning,” Associate Professor Heywood said.
“It is a dynamic and responsive one, but it is not the lobbying, fund contributing and plan-shaping one.”
However, Planning Institute of Australia state manager Matt Collins said best practice planning should maximise opportunities for a “diversity of voices”.
“Land-owners are an important stakeholder and should be included in engagement processes,” he said.
“In achieving best practice planning outcomes, the public interest is paramount, so it is vital that measures are in place to ensure that private commercial interests do not determine planning outcomes.”
Mr Collins said consultation should be “open, transparent, and accountable”.
“This should include clear processes to manage potential or perceived conflicts of interest amongst decision-makers,” he said.
Brisbane deputy mayor Krista Adams, the chairwoman of the council’s planning committee, said community forums did not make neighbourhood planning decisions.
Cr Adams said community planning teams were involved in the early stages of preparing and reviewing neighbourhood plans.
“The relevant local community is invited to nominate to be a member of a community planning team and this is a wide, open invite with no individual or addressed invitations issued,” she said.
“The final team members are selected by council’s neighbourhood planning team to ensure a diverse but manageable number of people to provide insights and feedback.”
Tony Moore is a senior reporter at the Brisbane Times
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