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OPINION: Sekisui’s development plan deserves a fair go

OPINION: Sekisui’s development plan deserves a fair go
20 Apr
7:09

VISITORS to the Sunshine Coast, particularly the Coolum Beach area, will be left in little doubt as to the level of importance the local community places on the role of the Sunshine Coast Planning Scheme in regulating development.

For three years we have lived with posters placed around Coolum Beach, on private fences and in public spaces, expressing sentiments relating to the importance of upholding and protecting the perceived prescriptions of our current planning scheme, as considered to relate to the proposed Sekisui House development in Yaroomba. 

I have spoken to many local people who are aware of the Yaroomba proposal, but admit to having only a limited understanding of the how the planning scheme is applied by their local council when assessing such a development.

Others claim to have a thorough understanding of how the planning scheme is intended to work, and yet view it as a series of rigid, black-and-white rules.

It’s important to remember that planning schemes are evolving documents that set a framework wherein local growth and development proposals may be fairly considered.

They are drafted with the view and capacity to change and adapt to reflect changing community, environmental, business and regulatory requirements. This is reflected under the Planning Act 2016 which enables planning schemes to be amended as required and where justifiable.

Planning schemes do not definitively prescribe where and how particular development should, or should not, occur. 

Since the adoption of the current planning scheme in 2014, at least 19 applications have been approved that were inconsistent with parts of the Sunshine Coast Planning Scheme.

All applications were approved on merit on the basis that there were sufficient grounds to justify the approval, including the establishment of an overriding community benefit.

During this time, amendments to the planning scheme have included everything from the rezoning of land and administrative matters, though to increases to building heights and changes to design codes.

Other amendments include those surrounding the Coolum Industrial Estate, the Maroochydore Principal Regional Activity Centre and the redevelopment of the Brisbane Road carpark.

Therefore, to come to the conclusion – as some do – that the Yaroomba proposal is outside of the planning scheme parameters, does not follow the required regulatory process and “massively breaches the SCPS 2014”, is simply incorrect.  

Sekisui House’s application has conformed with the relevant planning scheme processes and, like any other development application, should be assessed fairly and objectively.

It complements and promotes many of the outcomes stated within the planning scheme’s strategic framework. The most obvious of these is the specific identification of the Yaroomba site as a “tourism focus area” within an urban area.

According to the strategic framework, areas of this nature provide “for growth, investment and delivery of unique tourism experiences and an array of sport, major events and leisure activities, ultimately strengthening the region’s national and international appeal as a visitor destination”.

Sekisui House’s Yaroomba proposal may not comply with all parts of the existing planning scheme but it – like any other proposal put before Sunshine Coast Council – deserves to be evaluated on its merits.  

Development professionals highlight there are many examples of facilities and public spaces and structures that provide great amenity to their local area and the region, but under a strict interpretation of the planning scheme current at that time, would not have been approved.

These examples include the South Coolum Road Shopping Centre, Twin Waters Resort, Peregian Beach Shopping Centre, Maroochy River Golf Club, Valdora Solar Farm and the Mooloolaba Wharf. 

With the South East Queensland Regional Plan 2017 requiring Sunshine Coast to accommodate 62% of all growth within the existing urban areas and grow employment by an additional 75,000 jobs, future amendments to the planning scheme to accommodate that growth is inevitable.

Which is exactly how modern performance-based planning schemes are intended to work.

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