A development application for 140 townhouses in Flinders View is under review by an Independent Decision Review Panel (IDRP), following considerable community feedback during the application process.
Azure Project 36 PTY LTD is seeking Ipswich City Council approval to build 140 townhouses at 10 Astral Court, Flinders View. The development application was submitted to council in May 2023.
Council received more than 300 submissions objecting to the proposal, with many submissions received before the formal public notification period had started.
Council officers have a detailed understanding of the Planning Scheme as well as the Planning Act and associated legislation. Applications are thoroughly reviewed, including the details of the submissions made. This results in officers making a recommendation on how this application should be decided, and if approved the works and requirements necessary to undertake the development as proposed.
In addition to this legislated process, a further level of scrutiny is being afforded to this application though the Independent Decision Review Panel process. This process is intended to ensure that council is making good decisions on planning matters, including controversial and sensitive development matters, as well as development applications for council projects.
Council engaged a team of independent experts to sit on the review panel. The panel for the Astral Court application included a town planner, a transport and traffic engineer, a stormwater and flooding expert, and an ecology expert which are the core areas of concern raised in the submissions from the community.
This application is the third application to be referred to a public hearing under the IDRP process, which was held on Monday 9 October at the Ipswich Civic Centre.
Residents who had lodged submissions shared their views on the application with the developer, councillors, and panel members at the hearing.
Following the public hearing on 9 October, the Independent Review Panel will now consider all the information provided by the applicant, council, and residents, before making recommendations.
The IDRP does not decide the application; it makes recommendations which are presented to a Growth, Infrastructure and Waste Committee meeting or Ordinary Council Meeting where councillors make the final decision.
What is the Independent Decision Review Panel?
In December 2019, council adopted the Framework for Development Application and Related Activities which set out among other things, some core principles that council must adhere to in the processing of development applications.
As part of the framework, an Independent Decision Review Panel (IDRP) was introduced.
While a similar panel is a compulsory part of planning for complex developments in New South Wales, Ipswich City Council is the first in Queensland to use the process to improve transparency of decision-making.
Some other councils have engaged independent review panels similar to that designed by Ipswich City Council to support them in decision-making.
In other instances, councils have expanded the remit of such panels to not just advise on sensitive developments, but also to provide high-level advice on quality design and planning.
The panel, consisting of one or more independent expert members, will be convened from time to time to review recommendations made by council planning officers on some development applications.
The IDRP is not convened for all applications, but only those which meet specific criteria.
It may be convened when, for instance, council lodges an application to itself, or if a development is particularly sensitive for the community or draws a high number of submissions during the public notification phase (Sensitive Development Matters).
In the instance of the 10 Astral Court, Flinders View development, given the high number of public submissions and strong community sentiment it was deemed a Sensitive Development Matter and the IDRP convened.
What is the process for the IDRP?
The IDRP will review all the public development documentation on the application.
In certain circumstances a public hearing will be held, open to the applicants of the development application and members of the community who made a submission during the public notification period – all who are invited to address the panel directly with their views on the application.
In the case of the Azure application, a public hearing was held on Monday 9 October and livestreamed. The livestream is available here.
Once the panel has reviewed the matter, their recommendations will be presented to a future committee or council meeting, alongside the council planning officer’s recommendation.
This detailed information will assist councillors in making the final decision.
How many public submissions were made on the 10 Astral Court development?
Council received 303 submissions in total on the development. Of those, 122 submissions were deemed a ‘properly made submission’ as defined in Schedule 2 of the Planning Act 2016 and are therefore afforded appeal rights under the Planning Act 2016.
A further 181 submissions were not deemed properly made as they did not meet the minimum requirements for a ‘Properly Made Submission’ as defined in Schedule 2 of the Planning Act 2016.
Pursuant to section 19.1(b) of the Development Assessment Rules under the Planning Act 2016, all submissions have been accepted by council and regard will be given to each submission in the assessment of the development application.
Why can’t council simply reject an application based on community sentiment?
Council is bound to act in accordance with the State Government’s planning legislation.
The Planning Act 2016 establishes Queensland’s planning framework and is supported by other Acts and regulations.
It also establishes the framework of planning instruments that support the operation of the three main systems: plan‑making, development assessment and dispute resolution.
Council is required by legislation to accept and assess development proposals pursuant to and against relevant assessment benchmarks including planning legislation, the South East Queensland Regional Plan and the Ipswich Planning Scheme. All applicants must be afforded the right to a fair and reasonable assessment having regard to these assessment benchmarks and also council policies and procedures that are in place.
Council’s Planning Scheme includes a range of zones, sub-areas and overlays which provide a framework for the consideration of potential compatible uses. Planning scheme zones do not limit uses to a single option.
In addition, council does not have the ability to prohibit uses or refuse to receive or assess a development application. This means that anyone can lodge an application over land, including if the proposal is not consistent with the council Planning Scheme.
It is worth noting that there are a limited range of developments that are prohibited by related state legislation. As noted above, councils do not have the power to prohibit development nor can they choose to reject an application based simply on community sentiment.
When will the 10 Astral Court application go before council?
The IDRP will make their recommendations and then the application will go before council for determination. It is anticipated this will be in the coming months.
The full IDRP report will be made public in the committee documents, which are published on council’s website each month.
Will a decision still be able to be appealed in court?
Yes. Once a decision is made, both the applicant and those who have made a properly made submission have the right to appeal the decision in the Planning and Environment Court.
In deciding the application, it is imperative that council has regard to all relevant facts including the prospects of being able to defend their decision in the Planning and Environment Court.
Appeals are generally very lengthy and costly and place a significant financial burden on council (and therefore the ratepayers of Ipswich). Depending upon the outcome, in some instances the appellant can also seek to be awarded costs meaning that if council was to lose an appeal and the court considers the proceeding to have been frivolous or vexatious, the court may then order council to pay not only the legal costs but also the costs of the appellant.
Can I view the development application online?
Yes. All documents relevant to the Astral Court development application are available on council’s development.i website.
If the link above doesn’t work, go to https://developmenti.ipswich.qld.gov.au/Home/FilterDirect?filters=DANumber=4670/2023/MCU or search for application number 4670/2023/MCU at https://developmenti.ipswich.qld.gov.au/