Below is a copy of the submission I made last year to Brisbane City Council on the Kangaroo Point Peninsula Draft Urban Renewal Strategy. As always, I warmly welcome resident feedback on what I've written - just email email@example.com.
If you feel strongly about any of the issues raised in this submission, I encourage you to also email the Lord Mayor at firstname.lastname@example.org and talk to your friends and neighbours about your own ideas for the future of Kangaroo Point.
The Kangaroo Point Peninsula is – in terms of the number of dwellings per hectare – one of the densest parts of Brisbane, and an all-round amazing location with close proximity to the river, the CBD and key precincts like Fortitude Valley.
While many of the residents I talk to say they love living there, it’s probably fair to say that the peninsula hasn’t quite lived up to its potential. I say this because despite the high density, the high revenue from council rates, and the significant investment from developers over recent years, the peninsula doesn’t have a particularly vibrant streetscape or urban culture, and a lot of residents I speak to don’t feel a strong sense of connection to their neighbours or the broader community. On a per capita basis, Kangaroo Point residents also have a fairly high environmental footprint compared to other similar neighbourhoods, despite the theoretical efficiencies of high density living.
The drafting of a new strategy and neighbourhood plan for the Kangaroo Point Peninsula is an opportunity to reimagine how the area should evolve and unlock some of 4169’s untapped potential. Unfortunately, if other BCC neighbourhood planning processes are anything to go by, the end result will be an impressive sounding document that says all the right things but doesn’t necessarily lead to much in the way of material improvements on the ground.
The Kangaroo Point Peninsula area (‘KPP’) is the northern half of the suburb of Kangaroo Point, including all the streets to the north of Shafston Avenue and the St Mary’s church site. My intention in writing this submission is to highlight key issues, stimulate further reflection and dialogue, and broaden the parameters of debate so that non-traditional perspectives and approaches to urban planning can be considered seriously. I expect that much of what I suggest will be placed in the too-hard basket, but at least the ideas will be out there in circulation, so people can see what could have been achieved if we had a city council that was willing to put its money where its mouth is. I have previously articulated broader concerns about renewal strategies and their failure to actually deliver infrastructure, which I believe are directly relevant to this draft strategy.
I’ve structured this submission by highlighting key missed opportunities for the neighbourhood, expressing support for some of the ideas that are included in the draft strategy, then suggesting specific policy levers and infrastructure projects to address or work around each issue. Thinking broadly, I take the view that it’s possible to slightly increase the population of Kangaroo Point peninsula without dominating the neighbourhood with too many bulky, overbearing highrises. With a bit of innovative thinking, it’s possible to simultaneously increasing the availability of useable green spaces and public spaces and reduce residents’ environmental footprint.
Over-dependence on private motor vehicles
Many Kangaroo Point residents continue to depend more heavily on private motor vehicles than is desirable for an inner-city suburb. The Community Overview on page 8 of the draft strategy notes that 48% of KPP residents drive regularly, and a further 5% predominantly travel as passengers in private cars (total of 53% dependent on cars). In contrast, census data suggests that in the suburb of West End (which is slightly further from the CBD and doesn’t have any free public transport services), only around 42% of residents drive as their main mode of transport. (It is important to update the Community Overview section of the strategy to include more recent census data)
Dependence on private cars obviously increases traffic congestion and parking shortages, which in turn means council spends huge sums on road upgrades and maintenance. Cars are extremely unsustainable from an environmental perspective, contributing significantly to fossil fuel emissions, noise pollution, smog, and the use of non-renewable resources in their construction and maintenance. Car-dominated suburbs also restrict the potential to create vibrant, active streetscapes where people hang out in the public realm and interact with each other.
The draft strategy doesn’t include specific targets for transport modal share, but it’s clear that we need to encourage many more residents to travel by active transport. An ambitious but realistic and achievable target is to reduce the current percentage of car-dependent residents from the mid-forties down to 20%. This target should be specifically included in the renewal strategy. It is entirely feasible to support 4 out of 5 Kangaroo Point Peninsula residents to rely on walking, cycling, ferries and buses as their preferred modes of transport. If current dependence on private cars is not reduced, parking shortages and traffic congestion within the peninsula will continue to increase.
While the strategy does identify some valuable improvements to pedestrian and cyclist connectivity around the peninsula, its ‘Connecting the Peninsula’ sub-strategies fall far short of envisaging and catalysing a major shift towards public/active transport.
Homelessness and housing affordability
In line with the State Government’s South East Queensland Regional Plan, part of the motivation behind the KPP draft renewal strategy and related neighbourhood plan is to increase heights and density to provide more housing within the neighbourhood plan area. However if this housing is unaffordable for lower-income residents, there’s little social value or public interest in cramming more and more highrises into this already densely populated community.
Kangaroo Point is currently prohibitively expensive for lower-income would-be residents. This means key workers from industries such as hospitality, retail, cleaning etc have to live further away from the CBD and commute long distances for work. Many of the retail, hospitality and administrative workers who actually work within KPP cannot actually afford to live there.
Diversity is one of Brisbane’s strengths, and Kangaroo Point’s cultural and demographic diversity was historically one of the key features that added to the area’s character and sense of community. It would be a great shame if KPP evolved into an exclusive enclave for the rich where privileged residents can live their whole lives in the suburb without ever encountering people of different socio-economic statuses and life experiences.
Addressing Brisbane’s housing affordability crisis should be a key goal of all urban renewal strategies. If we’re not even improving affordability, why the heck are we building so many new towers?
It is extremely disappointing that this draft renewal strategy does nothing to meaningfully address housing affordability concerns within the KPP area, or to address the needs and concerns of the area’s rising homeless population.
Although it doesn’t currently figure prominently in mainstream urban planning discussions, the provision of nutritious, affordable fresh fruit and vegetables in inner-city areas will be a growing challenge in the future, as pressures from climate change, water shortages, global conflicts and over-population reduce the availability and drive up prices for fresh produce. Current trends in other larger, more densely populated cities suggest that fresh food will tend to become more and more expensive in inner-city areas, particularly as a result of rising commercial property costs, and the increased difficulty of transporting refrigerated produce into congested neighbourhoods with minimal parking and road space. While feeding urban populations entirely from produce grown within city limits is not currently feasible, it is often more sustainable and energy-efficient to grow some foods – particularly leafy greens which take up a lot of space in freight – within dense urban areas. Smaller councils such as the City of Darebin in inner-Melbourne have already adopted detailed and specific Urban Food Production Strategies which help address concerns about food security and the many social benefits of urban food production, however Brisbane City Council does not. In this context, it’s particularly important that very high-density areas such as Kangaroo Point Peninsula include urban food security as a key element within Urban Renewal Strategies. The renewal strategy should learn from Darebin Council’s Urban Food Production Strategy and transfer key elements into the KPP context.
Concerns about food security also connect to the related issue within KPP of the shortage of local independent green grocers, delis, and other small produce retailers. Many KPP residents report that they have to drive to other suburbs for their weekly grocery shopping, and while the draft renewal strategy identifies this need within the community, it offers very little in terms of practical solutions to address the problem.
The strategy should clearly identify the importance of improving food security within the peninsula by encouraging the establishment of local food co-ops, farmers’ markets and community gardens.
Public Green Space, Civic Spaces and Community Facilities
On a per capita basis, the Kangaroo Point Peninsula suffers from an acute shortage of parkland, gathering spaces and community facilities. Resident groups wishing to organise community meetings in the northern half of Kangaroo Point are forced to rely on the generosity of local business owners to access function rooms in cafes and hotels that are ordinarily rented out on a for-profit basis.
Due to the lack of community centres and community halls in KPP, I personally find it difficult to secure affordable spaces for my own community meetings and consultations, which undermines my ability to communicate with residents about changes in the local area.
I’m also seeing increased competition among residents for green space, with more frequent conflicts between different uses of public parks. Among other things, residents have raised with me the need for a dog off-leash area, a full-sized basketball court, and a children’s bike riding track, but finding appropriate spaces for such facilities has proved difficult.
The KPP Draft Renewal Strategy’s failure to address this shortage of green space and community facilities is particularly disappointing. Rather than providing new green space, its focus is restricted to improving infrastructure within the footprint of existing parks. Well over 90% of KPP dwellings are now high-density apartments. Apartment residents tend to depend more heavily on public green space than residents of detached low-density housing, and it is unfortunate that this renewal strategy does not identify any land to be acquired for new parks or community facilities. New land for a community centre within KPP must be identified and acquired as a high priority. The strategy should require that all new high-density developments include ground-floor community meeting spaces which are accessible to the general public.
I support the vast majority of connectivity improvements listed within the draft strategy. As mentioned above, the core problem is that no plan to pay for these various infrastructure projects is identified. Without a plan to pay for the infrastructure, there’s a high probability that it will not be delivered in time to cater for the area’s rapidly increasing population.
Footbridge to the CBD
A footbridge between Kangaroo Point and the CBD (from the western end of Thornton St to the Eagle St precinct) has been part of council planning documents for some time now, so it’s no surprise to see it included in this strategy. Obviously it will be important to carefully plan how cyclists and pedestrians will interact when using this bridge, to ensure that some of the problems with other footbridges such as the Goodwill Bridge aren’t repeated.
The renewal strategy should clearly specify that this footbridge will have a partial roof all the way along it, to shelter both pedestrians and cyclists from harsh sun and heavy rain. Covered promenades leading up the bridge at both ends - particularly from the Story Bridge pedestrian underpass - can help activate the landing points and maximise use of the bridge even during wet weather.
The indicative diagram of the bridge location appears to show that it will bend slightly to land on the CBD side near the intersection of Alice and Edward Streets, rather than stretching directly across to Waterfront Place. This may add unnecessarily to the length of the bridge and the crossing distance for bridge users, as well as to initial construction costs. The diagrams in the strategy should be amended to broaden the potential footprint of the bridge and indicate the possibility that the bridge might actually need to be constructed on private land, so as to clearly notify CBD landowners of this possibility.
The footbridge presents a great opportunity to activate the stretch of Thornton Street leading down to the river, but unfortunately recent development applications - including DA A004480738 for 11 Thornton St - do not seize this opportunity. It would be great to see the strategy focus more on how the crucial east-west connection from Deakin St through the underpass and down Thornton St to the river can be improved with public art projects, street tree plantings, footpath widening and other landscaping upgrades. The DA for 11 Thornton St should be sent back to the drawing board, with a request for new plans that better activate the Thornton St frontage.
Completing the Riverwalk
I support the strategy’s inclusion of completing the riverwalk between Dockside and Mowbray Park as a high priority, however I do not think it is satisfactory to wait for all sites along the river to redevelop and require private developers to deliver this infrastructure at some unspecified future date. Instead, BCC should be compulsorily acquiring the necessary riverside land now and proceeding with construction. Several sites along the river between Dockside and Mowbray Park will not be redeveloped for many years to come, and it would be a mistake to wait decades to complete this urgently needed pedestrian and cyclist connection.
Completing the riverwalk is not just about attracting tourists and improving amenity for recreation – it is about providing better access for people with impaired mobility, reducing conflicts between cyclists, cars and pedestrians and ultimately about reducing traffic congestion by encouraging more people to use active transport.
As part of construction of the riverwalk, council should consider including more kayak launching points, observation/fishing platforms, garden beds and additional riverside vegetation planting.
A new public toilet facility should be included along the riverwalk somewhere in the vicinity of Silver Quays or Castlebar Cove so that the riverwalk is more accommodating for people with incontinence and families with small children. This will also help ensure that seating and lookout spots along the riverwalk are more useable as picnic destinations rather than just temporary stop-off points.
To increase the riverwalk’s appeal as a tourist destination, historical signage should be included along the walkway, telling the story of the area both before and after the European invasion, and sharing more information about the Brisbane River ecosystem.
To improve access for nearby residents, a pathway and 24-hour easement from Thorn St through the Shaftston College site to the riverwalk needs to be negotiated, and it is positive to see the strategy include a reference to this.
As part of the riverwalk project, council should also consider acquiring (or at least taking on maintenance responsibility for) the large riverside lawns in front of Shaftson College, Bridgewater Gardens and Yungaburra and improving these sites with public facilities as small urban commons.
To maximise the riverwalk’s usefulness as an active transport route, council should install a footbridge across the mouth of the Frank Nicklin Dry Dock which is high enough for boats to pass under. This will ensure pedestrians and cyclists don’t have to divert away from the river via Cairns St to use the existing Ferryman’s Bridge.
The completion of the riverwalk is an exciting opportunity to reinvigorate the peninsula, reduce many of the area’s existing traffic and connectivity issues, and open up more of the river to residents. It should not be postponed until after the next council election in 2020.
Wheelchair Ramps in the Story Bridge Underpass
Making the Story Bridge pedestrian underpass between Thornton St and Deakin St accessible for wheelchairs, prams and bikes is probably the highest priority to improve east-west connectivity and access through the peninsula. This underpass is a key connector to the hospital and ferry terminal, and the fact that it is not wheelchair accessible is extremely discriminatory against anyone with impaired mobility.
Addressing this issue is not particularly expensive in the grand scheme of things, and council could start this work tomorrow if it had a genuine commitment to supporting active transport and improving disability access.
As well as replacing the steps with ramps and redesigning the Deakin St entranceway to improve visibility, BCC should activate the tunnel with public art projects, transforming the bare white walls into canvases for artwork, with both permanent murals and rotating panels which are repainted by different artists every six months. This will help enliven the area, making it a place where visitors linger and helping address concerns raised by some residents that the underpass feels lonely and unsafe late at night.
The framing of this upgrade within the strategy appears to suggest that it is conceptualised as ancillary to the delivery of the CBD footbridge. However there is significant community demand and value in this underpass being made wheelchair accessible as a standalone project. Even if the CBD footbridge is not intended to be delivered in the short-term, temporary improvements to the underpass expansion should take place immediately to address major concerns about local access. My office is regularly contacted by local residents who complain that the underpass is difficult to navigate for people in wheelchairs and parents with strollers.
Recently I heard from one elderly resident who lives in Dockside Apartments and whose wife has been admitted long-term to St Vincent’s Hospital. This man uses a walking frame and can’t navigate the steps in the underpass, meaning he has to travel all the way down to Rotherham St and back up Main St, adding well over half a kilometre to a journey which would otherwise only be a couple hundred metres. Due to the difficulty of this journey, he visits his wife far less often than he would like to.
Upgrading the underpass would also significantly improve journey times for cyclists heading across Kangaroo Point from the eastern suburbs. While road bike users can usually carry their bike down the steps, riders with heavier bikes including CityCycles, electric bikes, cargo bikes and bikes with child seats have to take the long way around. This adds unnecessarily to the number of commuter cyclists circling around Deakin and Rotherham Streets, and contributes to complaints from local residents about conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians on footpaths.
Story Bridge Elevator
An elevator connecting from Captain Burke Park up to the Story Bridge is an excellent idea that will significantly improve connectivity between Kangaroo Point and Fortitude Valley and help reduce the number of private motor vehicle trips taken by residents of KPP. The strategy should specifically identify that the purpose of this elevator is to improve connectivity for both pedestrians and cyclists so that future designs of the lift will be large enough to accommodate multiple bikes at a time. The renewal strategy should be amended to describe the possible elevator’s location as “Captain Burke Park or the Main St/Holman St precinct” so that future designers have slightly more flexibility when exploring location and design options for such a project. It would be preferable if the elevator shaft were constructed in what is currently road reserve on Holman St, rather than placing it within Captain Burke Park and reducing the total available amount of public green space.
CityCat Stop at Holman St
The draft renewal strategy mentions exploring the possibility of the Holman St ferry terminal becoming a CityCat stop. This terminal has already been upgraded to be able to handle CityCats, so the main question is ultimately one of network efficiency, and whether the likely patronage would justify adding a stop at this terminal (my view is that it would).
A CityCat Stop at Holman Street would also likely lead to an increase in visitors to the Kangaroo Point Peninsula, leading to more intensive uses of Captain Burke Park by people who don’t live in the immediate area, and adding more weight to applications by new restaurants, bars and entertainment venues that they should be permitted to set up shop at the northern end of KPP.
Local residents need to understand and accept that connectivity is a two-way street, and that calls for a CityCat stop at Holman St will inevitably accelerate the transition of the northern end of KPP into night-time destination hub for the entire city.
High-Frequency Bus Service
The Story Bridge and the peculiar layout of the road network around the KPP makes providing a dedicated north-south high-frequency bus route through the peninsula difficult, however this service is definitely needed, and its introduction would significantly reduce car-dependence within the peninsula. Some thought should be given to whether dual lift shafts on either side of the Story Bridge might make it feasible to run a high-frequency bus service through the peninsula using the existing bus stops along the Bradfield Highway approach to the Story Bridge, and a second set of paired stops up on the Story Bridge itself towards the northern end of the peninsula near the elevator. This could be facilitated by installing T3 lanes on the Bradfield Highway/Story Bridge.
Improving Green Space and Public Space
As one of the densest suburbs in Queensland, it’s important that the ratio of green space to dwellings in Kangaroo Point increases. Demographic data indicates that more families with young children are choosing to live in apartments, and over time it’s foreseeable that many of the 2 and 3-bedroom apartments which are currently occupied by retired couples and individuals will become larger households (either families with kids or shared accommodation for people in their 20s and 30s). This means the population density of the northern end of KPP will increase even if the height and density of new development is restricted. The strategy proposes upzoning parts of Kangaroo Point Peninsula for an acceptable outcome building height of 20 storeys. In practice, sites with a height limit of 20 storeys are often approved by BCC for developments of 25 and even 30 storeys.
It is not acceptable to further increase population density in Kangaroo Point without significantly increasing the total area of useable public green space.
In order to maximise the use of both new and existing green spaces, and to provide more opportunities for residents to connect with their neighbours and enjoy the outdoors, council should proactively support the establishment of new community gardens throughout the peninsula. We should consider emulating the Jane St Community Garden model, where some garden beds – usually herb gardens and low-maintenance leafy greens – are shared and open to any member of the public to harvest produce from, while other garden beds are maintained and harvested by smaller groups and individual households. A network of community gardens both in parks and on apartment rooftops is one of the first key steps in developing a food security strategy for the inner-city, where residents can grow more of their herbs and fresh leafy greens within walking distance of home, rather than relying on increasingly expensive and resource-intensive freight networks. The renewal strategy should specifically identify that useability will be a key criteria for all new green space/open space included as part of new developments. It is important to draw a clear distinction between intensive landscaping that looks like nice but is functionally useless, compared to green spaces within development sites that can be used for community gardens, play areas, and other forms of outdoor recreation.
Captain Burke Park
The strategy identifies the importance of masterplanning and improving Captain Burke Park, and striking the right balance between the needs of local residents and the park’s role as a citywide destination and a hub for larger community events.
I believe it’s important that as much as possible, Captain Burke Park should remain an inclusive and non-commodified space. This means it should not be rented out for for-profit corporate events. The annual CEO Sleepout, which fenced off a large portion of the park and excluded non-participants (including actual homeless residents) from using this public space so that CEOs and politicians could have the park to themselves was not at all in keeping with community needs and values. In a neighbourhood where public green space is in such short supply, it is difficult to see how any event which fences out the public and charges more than a nominal entry fee could ever be justified.
The total area of Captain Burke Park could easily be increased at minimal cost by closing off the eastern end of Holman St at the intersection of Anderson St, and converting this area of roadway plus four parking bays to green space. There are no private driveways requiring access along this stretch of Holman St. This would yield approximately 380m2 of additional open grassy space. If there is a strong need for concrete hard stand to facilitate events in the park, this would be a better location for it than converting existing lawn/green space into concrete.
A sloped ramp at the eastern side of Captain Burke Park to facilitate beach access and the launching of kayaks as identified on page 55 of the draft strategy. would be an excellent addition to the area.
The masterplanning of Captain Burke Park should be carried out democratically, through genuine collaboration with local residents. It is not satisfactory to simply run a survey and hold tokenistic consultations where the ultimate outcomes on the ground don’t match the needs expressed by residents. Residents should be given meaningful power over how this park changes and evolves.
New parks on the eastern side of the peninsula
While the western side of the KPP riverfront has several beautiful riverside parks, the eastern side is more heavily dominated by towers and concrete. The shortage of green space is particularly serious in the highest-density area between Dockside and Shaftson College, which will still be largely cut off from the western riverside parks even if pedestrian connectivity within the peninsula is improved somewhat.
It’s great that the strategy identifies a small new pocket park at Lambert Street, but this one small new park is not enough to cater for existing residents, let alone the likely increase in population due to the strategy’s proposal to upzone the area to an ‘acceptable outcome’ (i.e. ‘minimum’) of 15 storeys. As well as the Lambert Street pocket park, BCC should acquire additional private land in this area to create a series of small parks and urban commons leading down to the river. The design of a new park at Lambert St should keep in mind the close proximity of nearby high-density student accommodation. Future developments around this bend of Lambert St will hopefully include ground-level activation with shops, cafes and community spaces. This urban common could perhaps play a similar role to Bunyapa Park in West End, with facilities for community meetings and small concerts.
As mentioned above, BCC should also explore acquiring or at least formalising long-term lease agreements over the open lawns along the river in front of Shaftson College, Bridgewater Gardens and Yungaburra, so that these spaces can be upgraded and maintained as public parks. Given their close proximity to residential homes, it might not be appropriate for these parks – particularly the one in front of Bridgewater Gardens – to have higher intensity uses, however the inclusion of additional garden beds, shade trees, seating and possibly play equipment could add significantly to the amenity of these spaces. These three spaces would all make excellent locations for community gardens, offering local apartment residents the opportunity to grow veggies close to their home, and ensuring that children who grow up in apartments still have an awareness of where their food comes from.
The entirety of the site at 224 to 236 Main St has technically be zoned as public parkland for years now, however much of the land is currently used by BCC as a carpark. Maloney Park should be reclaimed for the people as parkland and a space for non-profit community events. Main Street should be narrowed significantly where it runs alongside the park, with bitumen road reserve converted back to public green space.
Converting road space could easily add as much as 850 square metres to Maloney Park, yielding sufficient room at this site for more established trees, a full-sized basketball court or even a skate park.
The park could be redesigned with better access to power and water to make it more feasible as a site for weekend community farmers markets, and for activation by artist in residence programs. It may be appropriate to zone part of Maloney Park as a community facility to make it easier to use this space for concerts and events. Maloney Park could be a good location to establish a semi-permanent stall for a non-profit community food co-operative, working in partnership with nearby community garden projects to sell surplus produce locally.
Maloney Park is in many respects the centre of the Kangaroo Point Peninsula, and it should be reimagined as an urban common and community hub for the whole neighbourhood. It should not remain a carpark.
Creating green space by narrowing roads
Like Maloney Park and the Lambert St pocket park proposal, there are many locations throughout KPP where road reserve could be converted back to public green space and/or to wider footpaths and bike paths. Narrowing roads will slow down traffic, creating a safer and more comfortable pedestrian environment, while also providing significantly more room to plant large shade trees. While the draft strategy identifies the potential for more green boulevard planting along Main St, BCC should also explore narrowing the roadway to plant trees and create more green space at:
- Corner of MacDonald and Bright Streets
- Eastern end of Holman Street
- Corner of Goodwin and Darragh Streets
- Eastern end of Cairns St and the intersection with O’Connell Street
- Northern side of Thorn St
- Northern end of Wellington Road
- Eastern side of Park Avenue, East Brisbane
Urban Common, Sports Facilities and a Public Arcade Under the Story Bridge
The strategy correctly highlights the possibility of activating the spaces under the Story Bridge (see pages 49 and 50 of the draft strategy), but falls short of identifying this as a specific project with details on delivery. There is a sizeable chunk of publicly owned land – somewhere between 4000 and 5000 square metres – under the Story Bridge which is currently underutilised as storage for private vehicles.
The strategic goal of significantly increasing population density within Kangaroo Point will necessitate the creation of substantially more public space within KPP. Converting this carparking to more efficient uses is a comparatively cheap way to provide more public space without incurring the significant expense of acquiring additional land.
The entire stretch of carparking from Baildon St down to Holman St should be redesigned as a public arcade to be used for markets, events, sport and rec facilities and as a public gathering space.
This could include dedicated stages and performance spaces as well as water features and an abundance of shade-tolerant plants, creating a tropical rainforest pedestrian mall under the bridge. This would open up opportunities for double-frontage commercial redevelopments which face onto Main St on one side and the bridge arcade on the other. While revitalising Main St as a pedestrian hub is a positive project, the shade and rain shelter offered by the Story Bridge is a huge opportunity that should not be wasted on private car storage.
Opening up land under the bridge as useable public space will also create the opportunity to hold larger events in this location, reducing the impact and frequency of high-intensity events in Captain Burke Park and avoiding the need to redesign part of this much-loved green space as concrete hardstand. Other uses like basketball courts, rock climbing walls, a street art gallery, a children’s bike riding track or even a skate park could all be installed under the bridge. In this way, the uses of Captain Burke Park and the bridge arcade could complement each other, with the park being used for activities that make the most of green space like community gardens, picnics and outdoor ball games, while the bridge arcade is used for higher-intensity events and recreational activities that don’t require grass, such as exercise equipment, basketball and skating. The northern end of the arcade can be used more for sport and recreation activities that make sense in proximity to Captain Burke Park, while the southern end of the arcade can be used for markets and events, connecting with the Story Bridge Hotel and other nearby restaurants. The redevelopment of this public realm could be financed in part by lease fees from market stalls and temporary pop-up businesses.
At the very least, a public square or urban common could be built in the section of carpark between Baildon St and Wharf St, providing a pedestrian-friendly link and outdoor gathering space adjacent to the existing hub of activity around the Story Bridge Hotel.
In the draft strategy, the ‘Temporary Event Spaces’ item listed under ‘Revitalise Main Street’ should be rewritten as ‘Urban Common and Events Arcade’ opening up the possibilities outlined above.
Improved Community Facilities
Indoor Sport and Recreation Centre
Apart from the park facilities mentioned above, there’s a strong need for an indoor sport and recreation facility within the peninsula to cater for local residents. This could include basketball, netball, indoor cricket and indoor soccer courts and could be incorporated as part of a larger residential or commercial development or included as a standalone facility on government-owned land under the Story Bridge. Both the Multicultural Centre and the Radio 4EB sites have underutilised land which could be repurposed for other community facilities. BCC could for example make an offer to Radio 4EB and the State Government to upgrade some of the landscaping and site facilities around the station and the multicultural centre in exchange for a long-term lease over part of the site for use as a sport and recreation facility. Alternatively, land for a council-owned sport and rec facility should be acquired around the Dockside or Shaftson precincts.
River Recreation Access
Page 56 of the draft strategy identifies the possibility of improving river access on the western side of the peninsula. This could include a mangrove boardwalk and a public pontoon for the launching of kayaks and paddleboards as well as tying up dinghies. The strategy should also mention the possibility of restoring the old boat ramp in James Warner Park near the intersection of MacKenzie and MacDonald Streets, purely for the launching of small vessels on hand trailers and bike trailers (not for larger vessels towed by car).
The strategy should go into more detail about how the old Frank Nicklin Dock can be reimagined as a hub for river-based recreation. Rather than being filled in and built over, the western end of the dock could be repurposed as a public swimming facility similar to the South Bank Parklands pool, or as a more natural swimming hole with some waterside vegetation preserved. Dam infrastructure is already in place to separate the western end from the rest of the dock and prevent inundation by river water if necessary. The main half of the dock should be redesigned with public pontoons, kayak launching ramps and fishing jetties, however a limited number of marina berths should be maintained if possible.
The strategy should specifically mention preserving the entirety of the dock as a public facility and should clearly identify that the River Edge Transition Zone (mapped on page 38 of the draft strategy) extends for 40 metres to the west of the existing dock. The current map appears to show that buildings of up to 15 storeys could be built over the existing dock and right up to the water’s edge, which undermines the whole purpose of the River Edge Transition.
Rethinking road use within the peninsula
While the KPP draft renewal strategy identifies a range of connectivity improvements, it is largely silent about the possibility of rethinking the uses of road space itself.
One of the most straightforward and immediate changes to improve the safety and comfort of pedestrians and cyclists within KPP and thus encourage a shift towards active transport is to uniformly drop speed limits throughout the peninsula. The geography of the peninsula makes it an ideal location to initiate a trial of significantly lower speed limits. This would not only increase active transport, but would help reduce noise pollution and air pollution, which are key barriers to creating a lively and cosmopolitan streetscape. Deakin, Cairns, Lambert and Thorn Streets should all be lowered to a maximum speed of 40km/h, as should the northern end of Main St. With the exception of key arterials like Shafston Avenue and the Story Bridge, all other streets within KPP should be lowered to 30km/h, and consideration should be given to converting cul de sacs like Wharf, Anderson and Hamilton Streets into 20km/h shared zones (different surface treatments can be installed at relatively low cost to indicate the presence of a shared zone). As the last of the sites opposite Captain Burke Park redevelop, the entirety of Holman St could also be converted into a shared zone, creating the potential for street-level activation that allows pedestrians to move freely between cafes and restaurants on one side of the shared zone and the park on the other.
Lowering speed limits on the peninsula will make it significantly safer for cyclists to ride on the road. Along with improved connectivity and wider paths around the river’s edge, this should help to address growing concerns about conflicts between pedestrians and bikes on footpaths.
As part of the renewal of the area, footings for removable bollards should also be installed on streets like Holman St, Baildon St and Wharf St to make it easier and cheaper to close these streets off temporarily for community events. The availability of removable bollards that screw into the roadway will remove the need for expensive traffic management and water-filled barriers.
In many cities around the world, the majority of roads in high-density areas function more like shared zones, where motorists give way more readily to pedestrians and cyclists, particularly at intersections. In many respects, this is more due to culture rather than physical design features or rules and regulations. However, culture can change over time. Changing rules to lower speed limits, and installing more reminder signage encouraging motorists that they should give way to pedestrians who cross at intersections can go a long way towards shifting cultural norms.
Kangaroo Point Peninsula should be reimagined as a pedestrian-priority neighbourhood, where motor vehicles do not have an inherent right to travel as fast as they want whenever they want.
Nightlife and Live Music
Despite its inner-city location, Kangaroo Point has a relatively quiet nightlife compared to other nearby suburbs. Many older residents value this, however a new wave of residents – particularly young professionals and students – are increasingly calling for more venues and night-time establishments within the peninsula. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the lack of dedicated entertainment venues is contributing to an increase in large house parties within some of the highrise apartment complexes, which leads to disharmony between neighbours, particularly around Lambert St and O’Connell St.
Tensions between competing lifestyles and differing expectations of what levels of noise are appropriate in the inner-city will likely become more heated over time. Some residents will have to learn to accept that if they wish to enjoy all the benefits of high-density inner-city living they must also tolerate slightly more night-time noise than might be considered reasonable out in suburbia. However residents seeking a particularly vibrant late-night entertainment scene in close proximity to home might be better off settling in nearby suburbs like West End, Fortitude Valley and Woolloongabba.
The draft strategy appears to skirt around this tension. It talks about ‘Enhancing local lifestyle’ with a focus on cafes, restaurants and retail destinations that will attract visitors from across Brisbane, but is noticeably silent on the question of how many and what kind of bars and entertainment venues should be allowed within KPP.
I believe that rather than allowing a free-for-fall proliferation of late-night venues within KPP, we should identify a few key existing locations for such activities, and make sure all residents clearly understand that if they live in one of those neighbourhood pockets, they might expect a few boutique bars and smaller music venues to be established nearby in the future.
The strategy correctly identifies Main St as one potential hub for activation. I suggest that late-night entertainment venues should primarily be constrained to the eastern side of Main St on the stretch from the Story Bridge Hotel to the Queensland Multicultural Centre (i.e. between Rotherham St and 102 Main St), with occasional night-time community events like movie nights and community concerts in Maloney Park. Other parts of Main St would still be appropriate for ground-level restaurants and cafes. The pedestrian arcade running under the Story Bridge (described above) could also host various live music events and other performances.
Even within the late-night entertainment strip, the focus should be on venues which include original live music and cultural offerings, rather than large bars and nightclubs. There are enough nightclubs just over the river in Fortitude Valley, however there’s definitely demand in KPP for more local live music. Operating hours within this live music hub could potentially extend as late as 2am as long as sufficient measures regarding sound-proofing and patron management are included. Extending the Queensland Multicultural Centre’s operating hours will allow it greater flexibility to host live music events, movie screenings and small festivals, with both early-evening and late-night programming.
Council’s current approach to zoning does not sufficiently distinguish between low-impact live music venues and high-impact night clubs. It is important that the new neighbourhood plan for Kangaroo Point clarifies this distinction, making it easier for both informal non-profit community music venues and for-profit live music venues to establish themselves along Main St, while still restricting larger nightclubs whose business model revolves exclusively around the mass consumption of alcohol.
Down by the river, BCC should also specifically recognise the long-established role of the Brisbane Jazz Club as a late-night live music venue. Unfortunately, the jazz club’s operating hours have been restricted excessively in recent years, and it has become something of a running joke in Australia’s live music industry that Brisbane’s supposedly leading jazz venue has to cease live music before 10pm. The new neighbourhood plan should celebrate the jazz club’s existence and clearly identify it as a citywide destination and a hub for late night live music.
The KPP draft renewal strategy should conceptualise the Brisbane Jazz Club and the Queensland Multicultural Centre as key anchor venues for live music, hosting concerts that draw visitors from across Queensland. The strategy should specifically mention the importance of extending operating hours at these two venues, and make any other necessary zoning changes to accommodate this. By ensuring that the peninsula’s two largest music venues are non-profit community venues rather than for-profit businesses, the community will have more influence and control to help mitigate against concerns about anti-social behaviour within the peninsula.
Supporting local food retailers and essential services
It’s difficult – if not impossible – to afford inner-city commercial rents when you’re primarily selling fruits and vegetables, however there’s a strong need for local produce vendors within KPP.
The strategy should clearly specify that for all new commercial floorspace built within the peninsula, a certain proportion (e.g. 30%) can only be used for local small businesses (‘local’ defined as having their headquarters within the Brisbane LGA and ‘small business’ defined in accordance with Australian company law). This will help ensure that small independent retailers are not priced out of the peninsula altogether, thereby creating market conditions that give bakeries, fruit shops etc a more level competitive playing field against the restaurants and bars which would otherwise proliferate.
The strategy should zone more sites within KPP as community facilities for healthcare purposes and community purposes. The long thin stretch of land between Deakin St and the Story Bridge could all be rezoned as community facilities land, opening up the potential for adaptive reuse of this land for farmers market stalls, food co-ops, small-footprint retail outlets etc. In other parts of KPP, unused publicly owned road reserve could similarly be rezoned for community facilities, allowing more opportunities for local businesses and non-profit social enterprises that can’t currently afford high inner-city rents.
Rezoning sites to encourage community housing
BCC planners have repeatedly acknowledged the need for more affordable community housing and social housing in the inner-city, however feel they currently lack any mechanism to encourage land to be used for such purposes. An effective way to help ensure land in the inner-city is set aside for affordable housing is to zone it for Community Facilities which include the ‘Community residence’ use. The definition of community residence is broad enough to include almost any kind of subsidised or supported accommodation. Under the Community residence zoning, community housing organisations would be able to develop sites with a mix of affordable community housing and privately owned apartments in partnership with private developers. This is essentially a back door to establishing a form of inclusionary zoning within KPP.
Designating land as Community facilities would likely lower existing property values, which would be welcomed by many owners within KPP who currently feel the burden of very high rates bills. If, for example, a large proportion of the Dockside precinct was rezoned as Community Facilities, this would not preclude the existing site uses approved under previous DAs, but it would ensure that any new developments on land within this precinct had to include a component of ‘Community residence’ housing.
This zoning change could also give developers greater flexibility to deliver novel medium-density housing solutions (such as communal tiny house villages) in amongst existing towers, increasing density within the peninsula without crowding the skyline with towers.
Many sites within KPP are proposed to be upzoned for higher density, which will likely result in increased land value. By rezoning land as community facilities at the same time as height limits are increased, council could ensure that owners who don’t wish to see their land values diminished are not negatively impacted.
There are many sites along Lambert St in particular which could be considered for rezoning as Community Facilities at the same time as height limits increase.
Alternative Revenue Sources
As discussed above, one of the greatest concerns with the KPP draft renewal strategy is that no funding has been identified to pay for the big-ticket infrastructure items identified as necessary to cater for intended population growth.
In order to fund infrastructure such as the footbridge, pocket parks and new public transport services, infrastructure charges payable on developments should be increased significantly. BCC should also introduce a requirement that infrastructure charges are spent locally in the area they are collected, this change could be self-imposed and would not require any reform at the State Government level.
Significant additional revenue could also be generated by introducing a system of uplift/value capture taxation. When sites are rezoned for higher density development, the increase in land value could be taxed at the time the land is sold or at the time a new development application is lodged.
The table on pages 61 and 62 is perhaps the most important section of the entire draft strategy. It identifies who will have primary responsibility for delivering different projects and elements, and suggests rough timelines for delivery. Tellingly, the statutory actions of amending the Neighbourhood Plan (i.e. upzoning) can be delivered at comparatively little cost to council or the private sector, meaning they are more-or-less guaranteed to take place. In contrast, the many non-statutory actions will only be delivered if funding is allocated, meaning they may never actually happen unless council cuts funding from other programs and departments in order to find the money.
It is extremely concerning that most of the significant and meaningful improvement projects are identified as being delivered in the ‘medium term’, which means they are unlikely to be delivered until after the 2024 BCC election. By that time, the population of Kangaroo Point will have increased significantly and the community will experiencing major traffic congestion issues due to inadequate pedestrian and cyclist connectivity.
At a bare minimum, the strategy should be amended so that the Underpass Upgrade (listed as 4C) and RiverWalk Extension (3A) are brought forward to be delivered in the Short-Term. Both of these are higher priorities for the immediate community and the broader Gabba Ward (particularly residents travelling from further east) than masterplanning Captain Burke Park or enhancing Main Street. The current Story Bridge underpass is not disability accessible, and it is embarrassing and deplorable that BCC would continue to put this off for another five years at least, particularly considering that this underpass connects directly to a key public transport route (the ferry terminal) and a major hospital.
Completing the riverwalk and making the underpass more accessible for cyclists and people with impaired mobility will help take cars off the road, saving the council millions of dollars on road maintenance and infrastructure in the long-term.
It is imperative that work begins on these two upgrades as soon as possible.
I support many aspects of the Kangaroo Point Peninsula Draft Renewal Strategy. As a broad vision for the area, it is generally a positive document that identifies many of the area’s key needs and priorities. I do not support:
- Filling in part of the Frank Nicklin Dock and building highrises over the top
- Upzoning most of the peninsula for higher density development without any plan to fund the infrastructure needed to cope with population growth
- Retaining carparking under the Story Bridge which could instead be converted into useable public space
- The failure to include any meaningful component of affordable housing within KPP
- The shortage of community facilities and public green space
- Postponing the Riverwalk Extension and Underpass Upgrade as medium-term projects when in fact they are urgent priorities
I also continue to hold broader concerns about how little engagement residents of Kangaroo Point Peninsula have had with the drafting of the renewal strategy. While I’m sure the project team have done the best with the resources at their disposal, I’ve been troubled by recent conversations with residents of Kangaroo Point who have a strong interest in local planning but were completely unaware of the drafting process or the implications that this strategy will have for the future of their neighbourhood. Most residents in Kangaroo Point do not know about the strategy, and would likely have a lot more feedback about it if they had been provided more information and more opportunities to engage. I note that many people who applied to be part of the Community Planning Team were rejected, and I understand that renters were grossly underrepresented on the CPT, which perhaps speaks to the fact that housing affordability issues have not been adequately addressed by the strategy. I wish to emphasise that I do not see this as a failing on the part of the team members running the consultation process, but rather a failure to adequately fund consultation at a level that would meaningfully engage a larger proportion of the population.
If the key concerns I have raised in this submission – particularly regarding timelines for delivery of urgent projects – are not addressed, I will not be able to support this draft strategy in its entirety and will advise local residents accordingly.
Thank you again for the opportunity to give feedback into this draft strategy. I look forward to seeing my suggestions taken on board and further constructive dialogue in the near future.
Spare me the Economic Fairytales: Approving More Private Developments Won’t Improve Housing Affordability
Barely a week goes by without someone – usually someone possessing a condescending sneer and multiple investment properties – telling me that building more private apartments is the best way to improve housing affordability for young people.
I call bullshit. Contrary to popular rhetoric, increasing the supply of private dwellings isn’t making housing cheaper for first home buyers or low-income renters.
Housing in Australia is treated as a source of profit. Our federal tax system trips over itself to incentivise investment in real estate. So as long as investors feel confident that values will remain high, they’ll keep snatching up new properties like lollies from a piñata, driving up prices and out-bidding first home buyers.
If supply ever rises so fast that investors start getting antsy (e.g. inner-city Brisbane) the property industry responds by slowing down construction. Developers postpone projects, leave sites sitting empty and hold off on advertising new stock to avoid saturating the market.Read more
Concerns about over-development in Kangaroo Point are approaching boiling point, with residents holding a protest this Tuesday morning against a highrise on Thornton St that will cast long shadows over a neighbouring public park.
Developers originally applied to build a 19-storey tower on a site which had a height limit of 10 storeys, and have now amended their application in response to community pressure, reducing it to 16 storeys. However residents say that’s still too tall, and that Brisbane City Council needs to stop treating the building heights in the neighbourhood plan as negotiable.
Local resident Katharine Fresier can’t understand why BCC continues to approve developments which grossly exceed the neighbourhood plan. “Profit driven developments are clearly not meeting the demands for low cost housing. Investors buy them and then leave them empty, so they’re not even improving affordability.”
The following comments were recently submitted to BCC's development assessment team regarding DA A004480738. I've made further comments via a series of phone calls with council officers.
I wish to reiterate my concerns and strong objections to DA A004480738 for 11 Thornton St, Kangaroo Point.
The developer is seeking extremely generous performance outcomes, but has failed to demonstrate any significant public benefit to justify non-compliance with the acceptable outcomes in the current neighbourhood plan.
Excessive height and built form not in public interest
This building clearly fails to meet the acceptable outcome height limit of 10 storeys, and does not demonstrate any significant or meaningful public benefit to justify a performance outcome regarding height.
Any argument that the developer is somehow ‘entitled’ to build higher than 10 storeys because part of the site is taken up by a heritage building is unfounded. The historic building is a fixed feature of the site and its presence would have been factored into the value of the property at the time it was last sold and at the time the developer began planning their project. The presence of the heritage property was also considered at the time the neighbourhood plan was drafted when an acceptable outcome of 10 storeys was identified for this site. There is no prima facie right to a certain density yield or certain floor area enshrined in the neighbourhood plan or other relevant codes. The developer must take the site as they find it. The proposal to relocate the existing Water Police building is already freeing up far more of the site for highrise development than the neighbourhood plan drafters would have contemplated.
The nearby new development at 2 Scott St has a height of 15 storeys. This too is excessive, and should not have been approved as it does not satisfy the neighbourhood plan. To allow 11 Thornton St to build higher than 10 storeys would mean the building line of towers along this stretch of the river no longer slopes down with the natural gradient of the ridge. The sloping cliffs and ridges of Kangaroo Point are a key feature identified as deserving of protection in previous and current neighbourhood plans and strategic documents. The contours of the ridgeline must be protected and preserved so that the development on 11 Thornton St presents as shorter and less imposing than buildings further away from the river and further up the ridgeline.
Relocating the heritage property will allow the tower to be built closer to CT White Park than BCC’s neighbourhood planners intended. To allow the tower to be built closer to the river and to allow a performance outcome regarding significant additional height will create excessive shadowing of the neighbouring park and river. Excessive shadowing will impact negatively on council trees growing in the park, and on the general amenity of this valued public space. Although the tower design is argued to be sympathetic to the heritage values of the water police building, its impact on the neighbouring Scott St Flats – also listed on the State Heritage Register – is far more severe. The proposed tower will loom over the Scott St flats, which are already going to be bounded to the east by another tower. The combined effect of being boxed in by these two towers will undermine the aesthetic significance of the Scott St Flats, which is one of the key criterion of its heritage listing.
The plans seem to describe the glazed building façade as resembling or giving the appearance of clouds, which strikes me as nonsensical marketing jargon. While the fritted glass patterning might present a slightly less harsh façade than some buildings, this will still look like a large and imposing skyscraper that dominates the park, the river and the skyline.
By exceeding height limits, the developer is increasing the amount of shadowing on nearby buildings and public spaces. The applicant is deliberately down-playing the overshadowing impacts on the public park, which will significantly change the amenity of the park and impact upon the kinds of tree species that can flourish there. The Thornton St boulevard will also be deprived of sunlight for most of the day, making this important pedestrian connector feel more and more like a closed-in concrete canyon.
Excessive site coverage and insufficient setbacks negatively impacts public realm
The applicant seems to be claiming that because neighbouring developments were granted performance outcomes for boundary setbacks, this property should be given similar treatment despite failing to demonstrate any significant public benefit. While I have some sympathy for the argument that an owner should be able to build closer to the boundary if the immediate neighbours have already been allowed to do so, no such argument can or should apply to the proportion of the property which adjoins the public park. For the boundaries of the site which border onto public parkland, the developer must be required to comply strictly with the boundary setbacks in the current Kangaroo Point Peninsula Neighbourhood Plan.
Setbacks are important to maintaining airflow, view corridors, sunlight penetration and open space. Buildings which don’t meet acceptable outcomes for setbacks create a built environment that feels too hemmed in and artificial. This is particularly the case around CT White Park. Kangaroo Point peninsula residents are predominantly apartment-dwellers. They seek out riverside parks like CT White Park in order to escape the feeling of being hemmed in on all sides by buildings. Clear buffers to CT White Park must be maintained, and these setbacks should not be considered negotiable unless the developer is gifting another part of the site to council as public parkland.
Insufficient genuine deep planting
Contrary to claims made in the DA, the proposed plans do not meet the acceptable minimum threshold of deep planting. It is not acceptable or reasonable to include street trees, green walls or planter boxes in calculating the total area of deep planting for the development, which is what this developer seems to be doing. The requirement of 10% deep planting is supposed to be genuine deep planting that connects through to ‘natural ground’ directly below. If no connection to natural ground below is possible due to underground levels, the soil depth should be at least 8 metres and should connect laterally to natural ground. Shallow-rooted trees which are planted with carparking or additional building levels underneath should not be considered deep-planted trees. For landscaping to count towards the 10% deep-planting acceptable outcome, trees must be planted at ground level and be open to the sky. While additional trees/landscaping which is planted on top of basement levels or on higher levels of the building are certainly positive and welcome features, they are not a satisfactory substitute for the 10% deep planting requirement.
It is disappointing the proposed plans do not meaningfully activate the Thornton Street frontage of the property in any way. Thornton St’s proximity to the ferry terminal and to the future Kangaroo Point pedestrian bridge (identified in City Plan 2014 as key infrastructure) make this street a logical hub for future ground-level commercial and non-profit community uses. This site’s proximity to public transport services make it ideally suited for a ground-level community centre which could include free meeting spaces that are bookable by the public. The landscaping plan on the Thornton St side should include public benches and drinking fountains to improve pedestrian amenity and draw visitors down into the park.
I support the inclusion of a café on the CT White Park frontage of the property, however this side of the building must be set back sufficiently from the property boundary so that the café can include outdoor seating without encroaching on the public park. It would not be acceptable if a future café owner sought to set up exclusive private outdoor dining within the footprint of the public park on the basis that the building was too close to the property boundary.
I note in your recent information request that you have raised concerns specifically about setbacks relating to the heritage properties, but I wish to emphasise that maintaining sufficient setbacks from the park is equally important.
14 November, 2017
A few months ago, the State Government announced that a new high school would be built somewhere in Brisbane’s inner-south side to help cater for population growth and take some of the pressure off Brisbane State High. The announcement was a welcome surprise to a lot of residents and even to the administrative staff of existing local schools, who had previously been told that it would be many years before a new high school was built in South Brisbane.
The government promised to consult widely with the community before any decisions were made, but so far, the list of possible sites that the government is considering hasn’t even been released publicly.
The decision of where to locate a new high school is obviously a complex and controversial one, requiring consideration of a broad range of factors.
I write to object to Priority Development Area Application #DEV2017/846 for the Queen’s Wharf casino-resort in Brisbane’s CBD.
Having looked through scores of development applications in my time as an elected city councillor, I can say with confidence that it is farcical that the State Government would consider approving this DA in its current form.
Considering that this development is taking place on government-owned land, right on the riverfront in the middle of the CBD, the public benefits of the project are relatively small compared to the value of the land and future real estate the developer is being granted, not to mention the revenue from the enlarged casino itself.
I have many concerns about this development that go beyond the scope of the criteria against which it is being assessed. The assessment criteria are too narrow and omit a number of crucial public interests. At a minimum, the government should have required the developer to provide at least 20% of new apartments on the site as affordable community housing or social housing. The fact that 2000 apartments and 1600 luxury hotel rooms are proposed to be built on government-owned inner-city land without including even one single social housing dwelling is deeply embarrassing to the Queensland Government and reflects poorly on the values of the developer. The criteria also fail to specifically include and assess the social impacts of this casino-resort development in terms of how it will shape the lives and influence interactions between residents and visitors from different demographics.
However, the development application also fails to satisfy a number of elements enunciated in the Queens Wharf Brisbane Priority Development Area Development Scheme
My most significant concerns are:
- There is insufficient public green space to cater for the new residents of the proposed apartment towers, let alone the thousands of visitors, and the net useable area of Queens Park will be reduced by a shopping mall entrance
- Hydraulic assessment and flood mitigation measures do not appear to account adequately for increased frequency and severity of flooding due to climate change
- The public realm will be specifically designed to deter and discourage the presence of rough sleepers and marginalised demographics
- There is insufficient protection of established vegetation and ecologically significant areas within and around the PDA, and no genuine attempt to promote biodiversity as part of the development
- The design of the riverfront walkways will create excessive and suboptimal conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians
- The proposed footbridge is of minimal public benefit from a transport and connectivity perspective and its location should be reconsidered to fill more significant gaps in Brisbane’s inner-city transport network
- Key design elements which have been used to promote the development, such as the ‘Skydeck Viewing Platform’ will not be freely accessible to the public on a regular basis
- The built form of the main towers is excessive, will overshadow nearby streets and public places, and undermines the character and historic significance of heritage buildings both within and adjacent to the Priority Development Area
Why Brisbane residents should maintain a healthy scepticism towards Urban Renewal Strategies and Neighbourhood Plans
Neighbourhood plans and urban renewal strategies are major catalysts for change. Usually, such documents include a lot of positive elements that the vast majority of residents and local businesses support, such as more trees and garden beds, better pedestrian connectivity, and sometimes much larger infrastructure projects. The trade-off is that new neighbourhood plans almost always permit higher density development within parts of the plan area.
I don’t have a general objection to development and densification. But it’s crucial that population growth is accompanied by timely infrastructure investment and social services. Unfortunately, Brisbane’s current neighbourhood planning framework doesn’t guarantee the delivery of public infrastructure, so you end up with higher density development, but no other major improvements (Some of the main reasons for insufficient local infrastructure are explained at www.jonathansri.com/infrastructure-shortfalls/).
What’s in Scope?
The practical scope of BCC’s neighbourhood plans is quite narrow. A neighbourhood plan can change built form rules (e.g. height limits, boundary setbacks) and zoning for different uses (residential, industrial, mixed use etc), however other elements that require funding from council, such as ‘completing a riverside footpath’ or ‘building a new pedestrian bridge’ are usually only aspirational or advisory. A new neighbourhood plan is not accompanied by strict deadlines and a specific budget allocation for local infrastructure.
Many crucial urban renewal ingredients are also out of scope of a neighbourhood plan, even though the cost to council is quite low. For example, lowering speed limits can increase pedestrian safety and encourage local commerce. However speed limits are controlled by a different section of council, and even where a neighbourhood plan might state that a particular precinct will become a ‘pedestrian-friendly area’ or an ‘activated street’ there’s no guarantee that lower speeds will actually be introduced.
In partnership with the State Government, BCC could introduce rules specifying that a certain proportion of new commercial floorspace can only be leased out to Brisbane-based small businesses and non-profit organisations. You could also include requirements that a certain percentage of new apartments are social housing or affordable community housing, to be rented out to people on lower incomes.
But all this is out of scope for the BCC’s neighbourhood planning process.
The proof is in the outcomes
The South Brisbane Riverside Neighbourhood Plan (the ‘SBRNP’) shows how the practical outcomes of an urban renewal process don’t always live up to the positive propaganda.
Introduced in 2011 (several months after the January floods), the SBRNP rezoned much of the West End floodplain for higher density development. This applied not only to old industrial sites, but to existing medium-density residential properties. The trade-off was that council would improve public parks and intersections, and install a new CityCat terminal near Victoria St in West End to service the growing population.
Seven years later, West End’s density has increased substantially, with many apartment developments approved that are even taller than the height limits set out in the new SBRNP. But there’s still no new ferry terminal or public transport infrastructure for the Montague Road side of the peninsula, and the neighbourhood has seen no significant improvement to pedestrian safety or public green space. (I’ve written more about the broken promise ferry terminal at www.jonathansri.com/victoriastferry)
Pushing for Up-front Investment
When a new neighbourhood plan is being drafted, residents must insist that infrastructure should be funded and delivered up front before any sites are rezoned for higher density development.
It’s also important to recognise that increasing height limits to encourage private development does not necessarily improve affordability for lower-income families. Affordability is improved by increasing the supply of public housing and affordable community housing, not privately owned apartments.
When council tells a community that a neighbourhood planning process will deliver new infrastructure and a better public realm, residents should point to suburbs like West End and ask where and when the money for new public transport, public parks, pedestrian upgrades and communities will be spent.
The hard truth is that if council isn’t willing to spend the money on public infrastructure, the many potential benefits of densification and ‘urban renewal’ will largely go unrealised.
Right now in Brisbane, investment in local infrastructure and services like pedestrian crossings, parks, flood mitigation and public transport isn’t keeping pace with population growth. There are a number of interrelated reasons for this that would take a long time to unpack, but the top three are:
1. Developers aren’t contributing enough money to cover the cost of infrastructure in the inner-city.
2. There is no requirement for money which is collected from development in a certain neighbourhood to be spent in that local area – instead it goes into general revenue.
3. Too much money is spent on costly and ineffective road-widening projects, leaving very little for other kinds of infrastructure.Read more
This week I was invited to participate in a debate/discussion about sustainable development and over-development at the Urbanity 2017 conference. It was primarily a free-flowing Q&A discussion format that covered a range of issues... below you can find a rough transcript of my opening remarks...
Comments Regarding Development Application A004623409 on the corner of Hope Street and Fish Lane, South Brisbane
For anyone who's interested, below you will find the comments I've submitted in opposition to DA A004623409 - known by some as 'the Aria development with the waterfall'. I don't ordinarily spend the time writing such long objections to individual DAs, as experience shows that BCC largely ignores residents' concerns and only insists on the developer making minor tweaks even when there are glaring and significant flaws with a proposed project. I believe my time is generally better spent advocating for systemic reforms, such as banning property developers from making donations to political parties. Nevertheless, from time to time I think it's worthwhile outlining my concerns, primarily because it helps inform the public about where I stand on local issues. You can find all the detailed plans for this particular development application at this link.