puffing billy seeks planning scheme exemptions
report from the roundtable – 12 feb
At this week’s council meeting we had to consider a request from the Minister for Planning via the Emerald Tourist Railway Board (ETRB), the board that runs Puffing Billy. The request was to undertake a planning scheme amendment that would see any building and works associated with the ‘normal’ operations of the railway be exempt from planning permits without the need for public consultation.
The issue came about from the most recent construction by Puffing Billy out at the Menzies Creek Railway Station, an enormous zincalume shed, built without any consultation with the neighbours or with a planning permit.
The planning scheme amendment sought by ETRB would mean that no advertising or public consultation would be required to change the planning scheme, it would also mean that the current compliance action and need for a planning permit would cease out at Menzies Creek.
The issue out at Menzies Creek highlights how important public consultation is. The newly constructed shed is reflective silver in colour, far greater in size than anything in the region and there’s no vegetation buffer or screen planting, a resident in the rail corridor would never be allowed to build in that way and many local residents complained to council about the construction.
I had concerns about allowing the amendment without proper process. I think it’s important that the community, particularly those who live along the Puffing Billy corridor have a say about what happens in the corridor and the station precincts. I was concerned about changing the planning scheme first, then consulting residents second. The community who lives along the line understands the importance of the landscape and the environment, I believe maintaining that corridor is a shared responsibility and it is as much up to Puffing Billy to consult residents and go through proper process as it is for residents to apply to Puffing Billy when they seek changes.
Mr John Robinson, CEO of Puffing Billy, presented to council. He advised that Puffing Billy were developing a strategic plan that they would be sharing with council and the community in the future, that the organisation wanted to be transparent and consult with the community over the plan. He said that the railway was vigorously protective of the environment.
It was my view that locals are equally vigorously protective of the environment and that’s why the amenity of the corridor is a shared responsibility. I thought that no advertising was inappropriate and usurped good process.
I congratulated Puffing Billy on the development of a masterplan as a great mechanism to get community and council input to inform any changes to the planning scheme and the direction of the railway into the future.
Council agreed unanimously to write to the Minister indicating:
Resolved on the motion of Crs Dunn and Cliff
That Council write to the Minister for Planning indicating the following:
1. It is Council’s preferred approach to retain the current planning provisions affecting the land managed by the Emerald Tourist Railway Board and that any changes to permit exemptions should be undertaken as part of a detailed master planning exercise that involves public consultation.
2. As an interim arrangement, Council would be agreeable to work with the ETRB and the Department of Planning and Community Development in modifying the current permit exemptions under Clause 53 generally as proposed by the ETRB but modified to address issues raised in this report and in particular:
a. The definition of normal operations is clarified to determine the exact location and area of land where the proposed exemption would apply.
b. Clarify the meaning of the interpretation centre, cafe/kiosk, gift/souvenir shop and define the extent of the station precinct/precincts, or remove them from the proposed exemption altogether.
c. Either through a permit threshold trigger or an alternative mechanism ensure that any building constructed in the railway corridor is designed appropriately to minimise environmental, amenity and visual impacts.
d. In supporting the interim provisions, Council seeks assurance from the Minister that the ETRB will seek community input on a detailed master plan and proposed planning framework for the whole Puffing Billy railway corridor within 12 months of approval of the interim provisions.