The idea of this essay is to summarise a court case on appeal in the Planning and Environment Court: Peet Flagstone City Pty Ltd v Logan City Council and anor (2016) QPEC 23. Peet was seeking to appeal the Logan City Council decision to approve Bluestone Matthews Pty Ltd’s development application for a 24-hour service station. After first addressing the applicant’s principle arguments, the respondents’ arguments and the judge’s conclusions, interpretations and decisions, the essay will conclude by reviewing the planning and legal issues raised by this case.
Applicant Peet argued that the proposed development conflicted with several points related to planning and environmental impact. First, protecting lands from inappropriate development is the primary objective of the rural and regional production area, particularly urban or rural residential development. Peet also argued that the proposed development constitutes urban development, which will affect any nearby activity centres. Indeed, the service centre is inconsistent with the area’s status quo and the actual production area. In addition, the applicant claimed that the proposed development might affect the planned structure of urban centres, especially in priority development areas, thus compromising the network of planned centres. Moreover, Peet claimed that the service station is incompatible with the relevant spatial and identity provisions in the Planning Scheme. Finally, the applicant believes such development is unnecessary, mainly because prior approval exists for a new service station in an area close to the proposed development.
Respondents argued the need for flexibility in positioning service stations from a city planning perspective and not necessarily using centres as a key determinant. Many of these stations are located on the public road for easy access. Of the respondents’ justifications is that development maintains and enhances the presence of services in the existing scheme, which will help create jobs for the local community. It is also important to clarify that the land is located within the scope of rural housing, which caters to rural activity in rural areas. The respondents clarified that the proposed service is one of the activities that the planning scheme envisages placing in the centres. Besides that, there is a need for both community and economic service. Plus, the proposed site offers clear advantages for a service station that seeks to meet a specific need. Furthermore, it is a relatively small service station balanced with the development of the nearby rural residential area. In fact, the proposed service station site is basically crowded, so the nature of the landscape is immaterial. Notably, all other service stations are more than 5 kilometres away, so the proposed site will save time for the surrounding population and travellers. The expected population increase will also need such services for a period. Thus, there is an urgent need for the station.
After listening to all parties, the judge found that the service station significantly contrasted with the council’s planning schemes, the overwhelming community needs such as economic interest warranted approving this proposed development. Indeed, the judge made two key findings: under both of the council’s planning schemes, the ‘inconsistent use’ point was relevant, and the level of conflict was significant. Firstly, the judge found that the SEQ Regional Plan did envisage proposed development being placed outside the urban footprint and within the disputed area. Two facts support this: the regulatory requirements did not need referral agency assessments for this development of a particular in the Rural Landscape, and Regional Production Area under the statutory conditions and no identifiable conflicts existed with the provisions in the SEQ Regional Plan. Further, the judge directed that this service station did not adversely influence any centre or the area’s character and there would be no impact on the structure or network of planned centres.
This judgment was based on the following facts about the proposed development: it was suitably scaled for its object, its use did not have a specific locational need, there was both economic and community need for it and the existing opportunities within the area were unlikely to be implemented in the short term. Finally, the judge found that the place of the service station is located on the corner of a busy intersection and that the building design and layout adequately separated it from adjacent rural residential development beside that the proposed development was suitably placed and appropriately sized. Accordingly, the judge dismissed the appeal.
With respect to the principles underlying that network of regional activity centres, notably, local governments are required to amend their planning schemes to reflect the area’s regional plan (Section 29 of SPA). Indeed, planning schemes under the SPA 2009 need be compatible with the intent of desired regional outcomes, principles and policies in any applicable regional plan. Also, when planning schemes fail to reflect this appropriately, the local government must assess whether a development application reflects the regional plan (Section 313(2, b) and 314(2, b) of SPA). Whosesoever there is disagreement, the regional plan will prevail to the extent of any variance (Section 25 of SPA). An application need be rejected if it conflicts with the regional plan except adequate grounds exist for approving the application, notwithstanding the conflict (Section 326(1, b) of SPA). Where development is incompatible with statutory provisions, there is no discretion for a local government or the court to confirm the development (Section 324(3) of SPA). In summary, the requirements of SPA establish regional plans as secondary in the planning hierarchy, commandeer only by regulatory provisions.