Southern Downs Regional Council chambers
Southern Downs Regional Council chambers

Council rejects Rowland St units

IN a surprise vote Southern Downs councillors have knocked back a plan for a 39-unit development in Rowland St, East Warwick, which had locals up in arms.

Meeting in Stanthorpe yesterday the councillors present - Jo McNally, Glyn Rees, Cameron Gow, Vic Pennisi and Jamie Mackenzie - voted unanimously to refuse the plan by developer CH Holdings.

Deputy Mayor Ross Bartley chaired the meeting in the absence of Mayor Peter Blundell who is overseas, and Crs Neil Meiklejohn and Denise Ingram were absent from the meeting.

Residents fought vigorously against the plan for the existing two-storey residence plus 38 units including a mix of two-bedroom duplexes, two and three-bedroom single dwellings and two-storey duplexes.

As many as 150 people could have ended up living in the proposed units at number 11, with neighbours adamant the proposal represented over-development of the 14,000sq m site. The site has been the subject of development plans since 2008 and has gone through several modifications, with the council having been ordered by the Planning Court to assess the latest plan under the old Warwick Town Plan due to its being lodged before amalgamation and the new planning scheme.

One objector, who declined to be identified, said she was "surprised and really pleased" with the council decision.

"What I think we were all expecting was an approval with conditions," she said.

"They made an informed decision - they listened to what the residents had to say and read everything they were given," she said.

"Of course, we realise this decision could be subject to mediation with the developer or a court action, but I am confident the council will be able to defend its position.

"We are not against development per se, but not on this scale."

Submissions to council detailed a range of residents' concerns including sewerage, noise, garbage disposal, traffic and access.

The director of Brisbane-based developer CH Holdings, who likewise declined to be named, said he would "absolutely" take council to court over the refusal.

"We have developed 300 lots in Warwick over 15 years and we will be seeking either an approval or compensation," he said.

"All up, with legal and planning fees I am expecting this will lose me around $800,000. The councillors were fully aware that under the old planning scheme we could have put in 55 dwellings.

"This decision will devalue the site and if we do not get the sought outcome we will not be coming back to Warwick - we first came here because of the environment and the ease of dealing with council, but that has changed significantly."

The site changed hands in August 2009 when it was bought by Beenleigh Properties for $2.4m, with that company later going bust.

Building designer Ian Darnell, from Warwick, said comparisons with the Augusta Close development were out of whack, with the Rowland St plan representing "half the density" of Augusta Close.

"This refusal will be hard to justify legally," Mr Darnell said.

"Even with single-storey single dwellings the site could be subdivided into 21 lots under current rules."

A statement from the Southern Downs Regional Council was unavailable by time of printing, but it is understood councillors spent most of yesterday afternoon compiling their list of reasons for refusal in anticipation of a court challenge.

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