Council cracking down on unlawful buildings
SOUTHERN Downs Regional Council will crack down on illegal buildings on the Granite Belt, after several unlawful buildings were found in the Sugarloaf Forestry.
Council officers conducted an inspection of the forestry near Stanthorpe last month, where they found evidence of people living at a number of privately-owned properties.
A report presented to a council meeting on Wednesday, outlined how several property entrances had "well worn vehicle tracks" and the "sound of barking dogs".
Director of Planning and Environment Ken Harris said the dwellings had simply no approval.
It is illegal to construct any building other than a rural shed on lots smaller than 20 hectares.
The forestry has been subject to some controversy in the past, with unlawful buildings a recurring issue.
The land was never developed for residential purposes and is classed as a limited development zone under the planning scheme.
The planning department recommended councillors vote to begin action against the illegal developments.
Cr Jamie Mackenzie disagreed with the recommendation.
"It would be nice if the council could do something to encourage these people for a change - it's Christmas time after all," he said.
"I'm all for council condemning buildings if they're falling on people or there's environmental concerns."
The report stated not taking action could result in loss of life, damage or injury.
Mayor Peter Blundell slammed Cr Mackenzie's comments.
"The comments made aren't appropriate," he said.
"I would advise you not to make broad, sweeping statements like that."
While Deputy Mayor Ross Bartley was sympathetic with Cr Mackenzie's comments, he said it was about making a decision for safety and hygiene.
"This is going to be very time consuming and quite confronting to the say least," he said.
"If we don't get some kind of control, it could get further out of control."
Mr Harris agreed and said taking action was about encouraging people to do the right thing.
Council officers will inspect the properties, with assistance from Queensland Police as part of the enforcement program.