Councillors wary of 'boarding houses': planners seek answers

CHRC town planners are dealing with "out-of-date" and "inadequate" planning schemes.
CHRC town planners are dealing with "out-of-date" and "inadequate" planning schemes.

IF last week's council meeting highlighted anything, it was the need for the long-awaited Central Highlands Town Planning Scheme to be fast-tracked.

The shambles created by the current schemes from pre-amalgamation days, which councillors readily admit are "inadequate" and "out of date", was never more evident than when CHRC town planners butted heads with councillors over two development applications that met all the requirements, yet failed to gain approval.

Town planners are required to judge each application on its individual merits against the appropriate planning scheme, yet councillors are now routinely rejecting applications as the fear of "workers' boarding houses" runs rife.

The problem is our planning scheme hasn't kept up with society and the reality of what's happening in our towns today - Acting Mayor Gail Nixon.

Cr Nixon admits the trouble is that the council "can't tell for sure" what each development is going to be used for, but she said to councillors they could not discriminate against a family who for instance, "wished for each of their children to have an ensuite".

Councillors Kevin Pickersgill and Kev Cracknell led the charge against the two proposals, likening their designs to "boarding houses".

One application from Meldavaly Homes contained five bedrooms with five ensuites - a "clear indication" of its purpose to operate as a boarding house, according to the councillors.

The other rejection was an application from a company named Bowen Basin Residences, encompassing seven three-bedroom units, each with just one parking space.

Both were rejected despite being recommended for approval, and town planners were left scratching their heads.

The problem for town planners is that they must now go back to the applicants holding the rejection notice, yet under the planning scheme on which they are meant to judge each application, each of the developments is sound.

The new CH Town Planning Scheme is not scheduled to be finished until at least August next year, creating more headaches for developers and town planners that are facing a council not scared to vote against its own guidelines.

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