Planning our community in Division 9 for the next 20 years

180 days have passed since the election and we’re already commencing the dialogue on building a plan for our area over the coming years. Our Council’s “Construction Kickstart” program has seen over 110 applications in the first month and already 85 approvals, escalating the interest in urban and commercial development across the city. Division 9 is not immune and my office is fielding enquiries every week from landowners interested in the impact the program could possibly have for their development plans. Similarly, residents keen to see their area protected from further development have expressed concern to us that greater density could detract from their quality of life.

We take both of these sorts of queries very seriously and are keen to see ongoing community consultation to help inform future decisions.

By far the highest volume of complaint we receive in the office relates to traffic congestion. Residents are frustrated with the amount of cars on the road and the way this congestion prevents a smooth flow of traffic at peak times, such as the morning and afternoon commutes, and school drop-off and pick-up times. Our Traffic Management & Operations team are quick to assess these issues and problem solve to improve the situation but many of these issues actually to relate to poor urban planning over the past years.

Ultimately, the merger of Albert and Gold Coast shires some 17 years ago created a reactive approach to urban planning in our area, where what was a chiefly rural township now must deal with growing density moving west from the coast. In fact, I’m told it wasn’t until Cr Lex Bell’s advocacy back in the 80’s that the city even had a qualified town planner. Thankfully, that’s not the case now and we have suitably qualified staff who can assist to shape our planning for the coming 20 years. I hope to see exactly that driven on the agenda over the coming year in line with our reviews of the current planning scheme.

One idea that has merit involves the consideration of state infrastructure such as schools. In the past we’ve seen the state government build schools in areas where land acquisition opportunities exist. Schools, notwithstanding their wonderful contribution to the education of our children, create considerable traffic during pre-determined times and retrofitting these buildings filled with hundreds of children into areas without the necessary pathways, bikeways or walkways, and often roads, to meet the necessary transport requirements creates planning problems.

1km, 2km & 3km radius around schools in Division 9

What I’m advocating is a review of our environmental and density constraints around our schools, which we can expect will service the needs of local families for the next 100 years or more, to determine whether we can encourage families to live closer to this infrastructure and  reduce congestion on our roads. There’s also a potential benefit promoting healthy and active alternatives to driving to school, encouraging bike riding and walking, simply because the homes are closer to the infrastructure. The idea is over-simplified in this article but warrants open dialogue and consultation with the community.

We are constrained by stormwater and road issues in developed areas like Tallai where this proposed model could not be implemented. I’m against any significant increase in density in established areas like those suburbs aroundMudgeerabaStateSchoolor William Duncan. Similarly, it’s impractical for schools in Springbrook and Numinbah to be considered. However, I’m seeking feedback from residents near the state schools at Gilston, Clover Hill, Worongary and Mudgeeraba Creek and welcome thoughts from landowners and residents.

My objective is to reduce road congestion, increase active transport options for families, and compel better forward planning decisions as the pressure on our area to grow becomes considerable approaching 2020.

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