HELICOPTER APPLICATION ASSESSMENT & NOTICE OF MOTION PROCESS

Following the Mayor’s Notice of Motion to defer the application relating to the recreational use of a helicopter from residential properties on Woongarra Scenic Drive I’ve been asked to explain how the assessment process is usually handled.

Without going into the nitty-gritty details, anyone can lodge an application to conduct any activity from their land if it differs from the existing zoning.

Once the application is received, Council’s planning officers assess it against the adopted planning legislation to ensure that it complies with it or can be reasonably conditioned to qualify for an approval. Where necessary, the application can be referred to other agencies for comment and this usually involves State Government agencies such as Dept. Transport & Main Roads, Dept. Natural Resources & Mines, etc. In the case at hand, the application was, quite properly, referred to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority as the nation’s peak regulators and controllers of air safety issues.

Once all the information is collated the planning officers prepare a report which usually contains a recommendation for either an approval with conditions or a refusal with reasons.

The report is then provided to Councillors and made public on the agenda which is available 5 days prior to the next upcoming meeting of Council. Within that period, Councillors have the opportunity to contact the assessing officers to ask any questions that they may have or to clarify any points in the report. This enables them to decide whether to support the recommendation or to oppose it.

When the officer’s recommendation to refuse the helicopter application was presented to the Planning Meeting on 19th May, it was rejected by a 6:5 vote. Unfortunately, none of the Councillors who opposed the recommendation put forward a contrary motion and as a result the application basically remains in limbo.

To clear the matter up once and for all, I lodged a Notice of Motion to formally refuse the application which is listed on the agenda of the next Council meeting scheduled for next Tuesday 9th June. This effectively means that on top of the 5 days that Councillors had to ask questions or further research the application and report, they will have had an additional 3 weeks to determine how they will cast their vote.

The Mayor’s Notice of Motion seeks to have the application delayed even further as he advises that “To enable a decision on this Development Application to be made, it is necessary for this Application to be reconsidered by Council” and seeks to have it “reintroduced for consideration by Council at a future Planning Committee Meeting”.

With all due respect, I don’t consider it to be “necessary” at all. The report has been finalised and available for scrutiny for nearly a month. It has already been debated in the public forum and to my mind that’s where any further debate needs to take place, not in a meeting closed to the public. The Ordinary Meeting of Council on Tuesday commences at 10.00am and is open to any member of the public.

In my opinion, all Councillors have had more than enough time to acquire the information that they need to make an independent assessment of the application and to consider how to cast their vote. I’m hopeful  that this whole mess can be finalised on Tuesday and a decision (one way or the other) handed down.

Again, here is my Notice of Motion:-

That:-

  1. Agenda Item L3 of the Planning Meeting of Council held on Tuesday 19 May 2015 relating to Application No 322.2014.42328.1 seeking approval for the use of residential land for the purpose of recreational helicopter take-offs, landings and storage, be reintroduced at the next Ordinary Meeting scheduled to commence at 10.00 am on 9 June 2015;
  2. the recommendation of the Assessment Team to refuse the above application for the eleven reasons detailed in the assessment report, be noted;
  3. the application be refused  for the following 11 reasons:-
  • The proposed development is in conflict with the Desired Environmental Outcomes (DEOs) of the Burnett Shire Planning Scheme, specifically DEO 2.3(1-3) and DEO 2.4 for matter relating to infrastructure and community well-being.
  • The proposed development is in conflict with the Coastal Towns Planning Area Code of the Burnett Shire Planning Scheme including Specific Outcomes SO.6, SO.17, SO.18 and SO.19 and Overall Outcomes OO2(i)(iii), OO2(i)(iv), OO2(k) and OO2(l) for matters relating to land-use and character and amenity.
  • The proposed development is in conflict with the Urban Residential Zone Code of the Burnett Shire Planning Scheme including Specific Outcomes SO.120, SO.121 and SO.122 and Overall Outcomes OO2(b), OO2(i) and OO2(k) for matters relating to land-use and character and amenity.
  • The proposal is inconsistent with the established residential character of the surrounding area.
  • The proposed development would result in an unacceptable loss of amenity for surrounding residents.
  • The proposal will to create an environmental nuisance.
  • The proposed development is in conflict with the Infrastructure Overlay Code of the Burnett Shire Planning Scheme including Specific Outcome SO.234 and Overall Outcome OO(f) for matters relating to infrastructure and public safety.
  • The proposed development represents an inacceptable public safety hazard from an aviation, vehicular or pedestrian transport perspective.
  • The applicant has not demonstrated an overriding need for the proposed development in the location, given the availability of appropriately zoned land elsewhere in the Planning Scheme area.
  • The development cannot be reasonably conditioned to comply with the Burnett Shire Planning Scheme.
  • There are insufficient planning grounds to support the development despite its identified conflicts with the Burnett Shire Planning Scheme.
  1. The actions of the Assessment Team in seeking the professional opinion and advice of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) with respect to the above application be endorsed.
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