by Elizabeth Handley
In 2014 philosopher Alain de Botton caused an outcry when he criticised the city of Brisbane. “ People who have no interest whatsoever in making any city even remotely beautiful or dignified can get away with some truly terrible construction projects free of any fear of being criticised.
In an interview with The Courier Mail, de Botton said certain vistas of Brisbane, such as those in central Brisbane on the waterfront, might qualify as ugly,…“That part of Brisbane has been taken over by property developers who have been allowed to run riot for the sake of money,”.
His article encouraged questions on how the Brisbane City Council (BCC) meets its legislative requirements. The City of Brisbane Act 2010 purpose states that the system of local government in Brisbane is accountable, effective, efficient and sustainable. It is consistent with the following local government principles;
(a) transparent and effective processes, and decision-making in the public interest; and
(b) sustainable development and management of assets and infrastructure, and delivery of effective services; and
(c) democratic representation, social inclusion and meaningful community engagement; and
(d) good governance of, and by, local government; and
(e) ethical and legal behaviour of councillors and council employees
In short the role of our local government is to protect the heritage, amenity and social wellbeing of its residents. When we assess many of the recent development decisions in our city against these principles they fail.
Development decisions are not transparent and many would not meet the public interest test. The Brisbane City Plan 2014 often appears to be interpreted by Council to protect the economic interests of developers. Residents openly talk about the perceived corruption of our planning system by developer donations and the undue influence of professional lobbyists.
The town plan itself is virtually impenetrable to the average ratepayer. Community consultation is token at best and few residents who participate would feel they have been heard. Local area plans are ignored with impunity. The proposed Sunland towers at the old ABC site and the proposed tower next to Customs House are excellent examples of the failure of our town plan. Both sites show scant regard for the neighbouring heritage sites and totally ignore community expectations.
Cumulative effects of development on an area are ignored. This results in negative impacts on quality of life and a lack of essential infrastructure. Development approval conditions are not enforced which potentially leaves future owners with non-compliance issues and remediation costs.
Clearly the system of self-regulation and self-assessment set up by the BCC is failing. Unfortunately
for home owners this failure could lead to serious repercussions for their property values. Already there is an oversupply of units and the Council is encouraging more. Many developments are being approved, in breach of local town plans, which decrease surrounding property values and massively impact neighbourhoods.
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