Residents had successfully petitioned against the original plan for multi-unit development in Alma Street.
Residents had successfully petitioned against the original plan for multi-unit development in Alma Street. Craig Warhurst

Public push for detailed planning

RESIDENTS of Gympie’s Alma Street have called for more certainty on town planning issues, following a reported compromise on a proposed multi-unit development in the street.

Resident Andrew McLaughlin says it would be a big improvement for all concerned if council’s next plan included specific provision for multi-unit precincts in suitable areas, instead of developers having to “force their way into areas characterised by detached individual homes”.

Forward-planning for multi-unit development would provide more certainty for developers, investors and residents because everyone would know what was likely to be allowed and what was not, he said.

However, he said residents appreciated the efforts of councillors, especially Graham Engeman and Rae Gate.

“They did a really good job consulting with us and listening to everyone’s views,” he said.

He said council had responded to the traffic and amenity concerns of residents by rejecting the original application for 12 units on the site, which is just behind a restored heritage house in Caledonian Hill.

The developers had taken council to court and an out-of-court settlement had resulted in the likely approval of an eight-unit project.

“It’s probably the best we could get in the circumstances,” Mr McLaughlin said.

“At the moment council considers these issues case by case.

“Essentially, many multi-dwelling proposals are inconsistent with the planning scheme, but can be successful if someone pushes one through.

“More detailed future planning would mean that people, including those both for and against higher density development, would know what to expect before buying in.

“Does this mean the whole street may be further developed?” he asked. “Do you bother improving your own house if the street is going to be swamped by multiple dwelling developments?”

Mr McLaughlin said it’s a clear case of council not having the foresight to plan for the future, resulting in “ad hoc” decisions being made.

“Cr Engeman and (Planning and Development Committee chairman) Ian Petersen have just informed us of the situation with Aspire Developments appealing council’s decision.

“We are told council is now preparing to settle out of court for an approval of eight units on the site, at 9 Alma Street. There was strong and unanimous neighbourhood concern, summarised in the two separate community petitions presented to council in February.”

He said residents were still interested in the issue, because they wanted to know what conditions would be placed on the project’s go-ahead, enabling it to meet council planning principles.

Mr McLaughlin said he had approached council planners to arrange an information meeting.

Gympie Times

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