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Structure report ‘informed’ heights

By Mark Beale

The proposed changes to building height restrictions within Airlie Beach included in the council’s draft planning scheme were first mooted in a report compiled by PLACE Design Group in Conjunction with real estate investment management company Jones Lang LaSalle.

Whitsunday Regional Council Mayor Jennifer Whitney said the Airlie Beach Structure Plan Report, as it is known, was received at the August 27, 2014, ordinary council meeting and was unanimously supported by councillors.

She stressed at the time, and again yesterday, that the report was not council policy and had only “formed part of the information” used to prepare the Airlie Beach Local Plan, part of the draft planning scheme.

The report was placed on the council’s website on August 28 last year.

As part of the preparation of the report, the authors conducted “stakeholder engagement”, meeting with representatives from Beaches, Magnums, Whitsunday Sailing Club, Port of Airlie, Whitsundays Marketing and Development, PRDnationwide, Abell Point Marina, Cruise Whitsundays and Buckley Vann.

Cr Whitney said the report recommended considering the amalgamation of sites on Airlie Beach’s Main Street to increase lot sizes, considering increasing building heights, looking at relaxing on-site parking provisions and looking at incentivising existing landowners to redevelop.

“So we’ve been trying to highlight to the community for some period of time that the planning scheme was being prepared and there were things council was looking at,” she said.

Cr Whitney also stressed that the new draft planning scheme was not radically different from what was already allowed under the present planning scheme.

She also took aim at people who were spreading “misinformation” about the difference between the plans.

“What we’ve got in the existing planning scheme, we’ve got 12m or four storeys on the foreshore side of Main Street,” she said.

“On the southern side we’ve got 15m or five storeys.

“With already-existing approvals through the town, we’ve got about six approvals in place with council and they range from four to six stories.”

Cr Whitney said the proposed plan for the foreshore side was to remain at four storeys, and for the southern side, and the Airlie Beach Hotel site to go up to eight, with 12 storeys at the Port of Airlie.

She said it was important for the community to consider what developments had taken place in the Airlie Beach Main Street over the last five to 10 years, what was preventing development, and how the council could encourage new development.

“This is a proposed plan for consultation and that’s what it’s about – consulting to see what the broader majority of our community want,” she said.

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