AIRLIE BEACH could see its first foreshore high-rise after the Planning and Environment Court of Queensland ruled in favour of the project developer.
The court ruled in proponent Meridien’s and council’s favour, and the approval for the high-rise at Port of Airlie has been allowed, despite community group Save Our Foreshore (SOF) fighting the approval in court.
SOF spokesperson Suzette Pelt said the group was ‘extremely disappointed’ by the Planning and Environment Court’s decision to approve a non-compliant high-rise on the Airlie Beach foreshore.
Ms Pelt said paragraph 134 of the court’s reasons accept that:
‘The proposal is non-compliant and beyond reasonable expectations, in relation to height. That is a significant matter, particularly in the context of the present planning scheme provisions.’
Yet the proposal was still approved.
“To allow a 12-storey high-rise in a five-storey zone on the Airlie Beach foreshore will torpedo the future of the Whitsundays, by dramatically changing the character of the town,” Ms Pelt said.
She said Whitsunday Regional Council (WRC) had made ‘the worst possible decision’ for Airlie Beach’s unique brand of low-rise, ‘village resort’ atmosphere.
“The long legal case lasted many months and was opposed by WRC,” Ms Pelt said.
“More than 1,700 people wrote letters of objection to the proposal but these were ignored.
“The many negatively impacted tourism operators, as well as the community at large, are devastated. We see this decision as one that will, in reality, hold the Whitsundays back.”
Ms Pelt said there were many issues, including the site being problematic and the stipulation that the development must achieve and maintain a five-star luxury rating and, to date, that there is no committee operator.
“This decision could also set off a string of future applications along the length of Airlie Beach, resulting in what’s known as the ‘canyon effect’,” she said.
“Why even bother with a Town Plan if this is what can happen? The decision is profoundly disappointing, and SOF will now consider our options with respect to an appeal.”
In a written statement, Whitsunday Regional Council said:
‘Whitsunday Regional Council Director of Development Services Neil McGaffin said the Planning and Environment Court of Queensland decision in the Save Our Foreshore/Meridien/Whitsunday Regional Council appeal regarding the resort development at Airlie Beach was handed down on September 1.
‘The judge has ruled in Meridien/Council’s favour and the approval has been allowed, albeit adjourned for parties to provide advice to the court on appropriate conditions of approval. This should be resolved within the next two – three weeks.’