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First CBD redevelopment project bypasses ratepayer scrutiny

Duttons Cottage Queanbeyan NSW

THE FIRST SALE and redevelopment of QPRC land in the Queanbeyan CBD under a confidential agreement will bypass council’s inhouse approval process.

The project is for a serviced apartment hotel, restaurant/café and residential townhouses. It will be undertaken over three stages. Details, including size and scale, are limited.

Councillors approved the sale of the properties in Rutledge and Crawford streets in a closed session on 24 October 2018.

A project of this scale goes to a Joint Regional Planning Panel to determine because of its financial value. The panels, established by the previous Labor state government and retained by the Liberal-Nationals, are favoured by developers who are happy to remove potentially contentious developments from community scrutiny.

Historically, the planning panels have not made determinations weighted by the concerns and interests of local ratepayers.

The sale price for the lots, on Rutledge St across from the library, will only be determined if the regional planning panel gives the project the green light. 1950s heritage cottages currently occupy these lots and house council staff and programs like the multi-cultural centre.

QPRC may well argue that referring the development to a planning panel puts the decision at arms-length from the council which has a vested interest in approving the project because it can profit from selling the land.

Some community critics argue that the real problem stems from the council’s decision to deal with a sole proponent, the Downtown Q Pty Ltd consortium, which put forward an extensive proposal to buy and redevelop numerous council properties in the CBD without any public scrutiny or review. The result was a confidential Heads of Agreement approved by then Administrator Tim Overall in late 2016.

To date the QPRC community has had no opportunity to be involved in the future of these parcels of public land that the council holds in trust. Critics see it as another case of developer-led development.

IMAGE: The proposal includes the sale of the heritage-listed site Dutton’s Cottage.

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