Future of Coles development decided this Thursday

By Greg Brown

THE controversial plans for a new major retail precinct on industrial zoned land on the outskirts of Beerwah could be dead in the water, according to a report going before the next Sunshine Coast Council meeting this Thursday, July 22.

The Coles Group Property Developments Pty Ltd lodged three development applications in 2019 to pave the way for an 11ha homemaker centre at the intersection of Roys Road and Steve Irwin Way in Beerwah.

The proposal was for a Coles supermarket, showroom, petrol station and McDonalds to be built first, with plans for an extensive retail complex sometime down the track.

But the council’s principal development planner is recommending that councillors reject the plans at the July 22 ordinary meeting, citing numerous major conflicts with the planning scheme and inconsistencies with council’s vision for Beerwah’s future commercial growth.

Issues involving the contentious proposal have been extensively reported in the GC&M News for the past two years, with community opinion divided on its merits.

Although the three applications attracted only 50 formal submissions to council (ten for the development and 40 opposing), social media posts on the GC&M News Facebook page attracted thousands of interactions, with hundreds of comments.

Many said they were in favour of the development as they wanted to see a Coles supermarket or a McDonalds in Beerwah, while others pointing out that although Coles is a good idea the site chosen was problematic as it would create significant traffic congestion and is not near or connected to public transport.

Some commented that the jobs were needed in the area while others said jobs would be lost due to trade being taken from existing businesses.

Long-term local and successful businesswoman Joan Tucker has been following the issue from the start and has been vocal in her opposition to the proposal.

“I am relieved to hear that the recommendation of council officers is that all three applications be refused,” Ms Tucker said.

“With the current and projected residential growth in the region, a Coles supermarket would be as asset to the community. However, it should be established in the existing town centre. It would be the ruination of Beerwah to split the town’s retail precinct, with a flow-on impact in our other regional townships.

“The Roys Road site should retain its industrial zoning to accommodate future industry thereby keeping heavy vehicle movements in the one area.

“This has been an anxious wait for many small family businesses, so a big thank you to the officers for considering their concerns and making this recommendation,” she said.

When formally assessing these applications, the council addresses what is proposed – which in this case was very complicated – against what the planning scheme (and other planning documents) say are suitable uses for the location.

If the proposed development isn’t a perfect match for the location, councillors can suggest options (called conditions) that they feel would improve the outcome for the locality and for the community. They accept some digression from the planning scheme if the community good significantly outweighs the negatives.

In this case, council officers found that the volume and scope of inconsistencies from the planning scheme were so major that they could not see past these failings and approve the applications.

“All three development applications do not comply with, nor can they be conditioned to comply with, the assessment benchmarks contained within the Sunshine Coast Planning Scheme,” the report from the council officers stated.

“There are no other relevant matters applicable to the application, including the existence of planning, economic or community need, that justify approving any of the applications despite the non-compliances described in this report.”

The main points that led the council development assessment team to recommend refusal include:

•  Significant conflict with the council’s strategic vision for economic development regarding activity centres and industry and enterprise areas.

•  The proposal would create a new retail centre outside the existing Beerwah major regional activity centre and would fragment and undermine the CBD.

•  Due to its size, scale and intended function, the proposed McDonalds would represent an unwarranted intrusion of a business activity into an area identified specifically for industrial developments.

•  The size, scale and design of the proposed development would result in significant loss of industry zoned land (more than 11ha).

•  The proposed road works on Roys Road are insufficient and inappropriate.

•  The development does not provide for a transport network that achieves a high level of connectivity to surrounding areas and is deficient in areas such as links to public transport, effective walkability or links for passive transport.

•  The proposal does not protect, rehabilitate and enhance ecologically important areas, nor does it protect and establish appropriate buffers to waterways and native vegetation.

•  The development would not facilitate the achievement of ecological sustainability in that it fails to maintain the cultural,
    economic, physical and social wellbeing of people and communities.

The council officers also relied on an external expert to review the economic details and data submitted by the developer.

Although the developer painted a rosy economic forecast, the independent expert was at odds with this, with these findings disputing many of those presented by the developer.

The expert concluded that the economic figures don’t stack up, showing that there might be a need for a third full-line supermarket in the future, “perhaps by around the 2025 to 2030 period”.

Considering this economic advice, the council planning assessors concluded that the application was premature, with the proposal negatively impacting on the Beerwah commercial centre, stating that there was “no demonstrated need for an additional full-line supermarket and homemaker centre that would justify [the] impacts on [the] Beerwah activity centre and loss of industry zoned land.”

The council officers haven’t said that at some time in the future a new Coles, petrol station, McDonalds and other retail outlets wouldn’t be good for Beerwah and the broader region, just that this particular time and location aren’t suitable or feasible and that it would detract from the long-term vision and character of Beerwah.

For the applications to be refused, six of the 11 councillors would need to vote in favour of the report recommendations at this Thursday’s meeting.