Tasmania’s planning minister, Michael Ferguson, has said he will intervene after Clarence City Council rejected a 2,500-dwelling housing plan on Hobart’s eastern shore.
The Skylands proposal at Droughty Point would have encroached on the city’s urban growth boundary by adding suburban dwellings above the 70-metre mark on the central rise, including some up to 120 metres.
Tasmania’s Planning Department has been “working” with council planning officers in the state’s south over the past few months to identify “anomalies” in the urban growth boundary.
In a letter to Clarence Council this week, Mr Ferguson said he would soon start consulting with councils over the boundary.
He has now announced that he will amend a planning strategy, with the intent of changing anomalies in Hobart’s boundary.
Mr Ferguson says he does not need the approval of the city’s councils to do so.
“The act provides the minister for planning with certain responsibilities, including the decision on the urban growth boundary,” Mr Ferguson said.
“We will act, of course, very lawfully and properly, and importantly focus on improving the quality and the reliability of land supply, because that’s what Tasmania needs.”
He said the Droughty Point hilltop boundary was an “isolated island … not replicated elsewhere within Greater Hobart”.
A government statement said the urban growth boundary “makes no sense”.
The boundary is included in the Greater Hobart Plan, released in August last year, prepared as a collaboration between the state government and Hobart’s four councils: Clarence, Kingborough, Glenorchy and Hobart.
It notes that the city’s ambition for 30,000 more dwellings by 2050 can be accommodated within the existing urban growth boundary.
The boundary at Droughty Point creates an island within Clarence where suburban development cannot occur.
It was intended to retain the hilltop — a prominent part of the Hobart landscape — free of housing, with the 70-metre mark described as a legacy from a time when water and other services could not be delivered that high up.
Clarence Council was developing a plan for housing around the Droughty peninsula — potentially 1,700 dwellings based on similar neighbourhood trends to other parts of the area, and within the boundary — before landowners started to come up with their own plan.
This put the Clarence plan on hold, and resulted in a 2,500-dwelling Skylands vision for six neighbourhoods — using a range of densities and increased open space, and to further vegetate the hilltop — being provided to the council.
That plan encroached beyond the boundary, and was this week rejected by councillors.
The plan would have taken between 25 and 30 years to fully complete, but did not include specific plans for more public schooling, public transport, sporting facilities or improved arterial roads.
In his letter to the Clarence Council, Mr Ferguson said that, if the boundary was “removed from Droughty Point”, a draft planning scheme amendment for Skylands could be lodged with Clarence Council, which could be assessed by the Independent Planning Commission.
Minister accused of ‘undermining’ council’s decision
The Friends of Tranmere and Droughty Peninsula claim Mr Ferguson has backtracked on his earlier statements.
In July last year, Mr Ferguson assured the group that amendments to the boundary would need to be carefully considered.
“Whilst I note your concerns, I can assure you that, if I receive a request to amend the [urban growth boundary], it will be subject to a thorough and comprehensive assessment process relative to its scale, to ensure that any future development on the Droughty Peninsula is appropriate and, importantly, is consistent with evidence-based strategic planning,” Mr Ferguson wrote.
Friends of Tranmere and Droughty Peninsula president Michael Fawcett said the group took this as an assurance that the minister would respect the council outcome.
“It would now seem apparent you are doing precisely what you wished to avoid, and that is: interfering with process. You are undermining a council decision and the Greater Hobart Plan,” Mr Fawcett wrote to the minister.
“You are yet to receive a formal request to amend the UGB … [but] you are taking extreme action without consultation or consideration [of] the facts.”
Clarence councillor Tony Mulder said there was nothing stopping the developer from starting a 1,700-lot development that adhered to current planning laws.
“We did not reject the housing estate. We supported a 1,700-lot development, but rejected a greedy land grab to build an extra 800 houses in subliminal lots and crawl this development up a hill,” he said.
“The developer could be building those 1,700 houses now.”