By Nick Wiggins
Property development is shaping up to be one of the most hotly contested issues ahead of this weekend’s council election.
Brisbane’s population is projected to grow by one million people over the next two decades.
The best way of striking a balance between satisfying housing needs, while preserving the city’s character is a point of difference between the major parties.
Photo: Graham-Quirk-left-and-Rod-Harding-have-different-opinions-on-development – ABC
Unit and townhouse approvals in the greater Brisbane area were up 65 per cent in 2015 on the previous year.
Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said Brisbane has a choice on how best to tackle the issue.
“We can just go ahead and chop up all the backyards in Brisbane or we can preserve the status of our backyards and have more intense development in certain locations,” Cr Quirk said.
Nicole Kennedy’s West End home is a block away from one of those locations.
“We’ve got mega-development right at the end of our street, so we’ve got noise, air pollution, increased traffic,” Ms Kennedy said.
“Our liveability’s being eroded day by day.”
Ms Kennedy said she is not opposed to development, but said the level of development that has been approved in the area is too much.
“The developers just run roughshod over the plans each and every time,” she said.
After raising her family in West End over the last 12 years, she is now considering moving.
Brisbane City Council has been criticised for approving projects which opponents claim breach its own city plan, such as three towers on the former ABC site at Toowong, and an apartment block next to Customs House.
Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said the city plan is meant to be flexible.
Brisbane apartment approvals were up 65 per cent in 2015. (ABC News: Megan Mackander)
“For example, say an 8-storey building that becomes higher than that, there has to be trade-offs in relation to that, there has to be some public benefits associated with those development proposals,” he said.
“What we’ve seen right now is a building boom and so these things are more obvious to people at the moment.”
Labor Lord Mayoral candidate Rod Harding said Council’s use of the city plan is not acceptable.
“Our town plan is meant to give certainty, so that residents know that if the town plan says 15 storeys, that’s what’s built.” Mr Harding said.
Mr Harding also said there is room for flexibility.
“That’s the way the document was originally structured, but under Graham Quirk’s watch, it’s just become an open slather,” he said.
QUT Head of Urban and Regional Planning Professor Doug Baker said planning is a “negotiated art”.
“The folks that are building the buildings will always challenge the height rules right across the board,” Professor Baker said.
“It’s more efficient for them to go up so it’s a constant struggle and it won’t go away.
“The city plan’s there to modify that … it gives us the rules to follow and they’ll always be challenged but that’s a healthy challenge.”
Property Council says Brisbane needs to change
Labor has pledged to change the city plan to increase the number of car parks required in apartment blocks in a bid to free up more street parking.
“We’re going to sit down with the developer community and we’re going to talk to them, as we will with the community at large, but we will increase the ratios.”
The Property Council’s Chris Mountford said he was concerned about unintended consequences.
“An additional car park can add $50,000 to the cost of an apartment, that would make Brisbane a less affordable city to live in,” Mr Mountford said.
He said Brisbane needed to change.
“Brisbane is not the same place it was in the 1950s and it shouldn’t be the same place in the 2050s.”