Douglas Shire Council Mayor Julia Leu today outlined the process which granted approval for traffic lights to be installed in Mossman as part of the Woolworths redevelopment.
Mayor Leu explained Douglas Shire Council continues to advocate for a compromise solution but developer Town & Country gained approval for traffic lights from the Department of Transport and Main Roads and appears set to proceed with its preferred option.
“The community is opposed to traffic lights as part of this development, Douglas Shire Council is opposed to traffic lights in the Douglas Shire but it is the Department of Transport and Main Roads that ultimately decides and granted approval for traffic lights at the request of the developer in January this year.”
Town & Country was originally granted approval for the Woolworths redevelopment by the old Douglas Shire Council in August, 2007.
The developer was granted an extension of currency by Cairns Regional Council in 2010 before an Amended Decision Notice was issued by Cairns Regional Council planning officers on January 15, 2013.
Mayor Leu, who was at the time the Division 10 Councillor for Cairns Regional Council, said an Amended Decision Notice issued to the developer on January 14, 2013, included a requirement for the shopping centre to be set back at least six metres from the boundary and be landscaped with native species, which she supported.
But she was not shown the Amended Decision Notice re-issued by Cairns Regional Council the next day which had deleted the requirement for a six-metre set back and extensive landscaping after the developer had discussions with Cairns Regional Council Deputy Mayor and Chair of the Planning Committee Terry James and a senior council planner.
On January 15 this year, the Department of Transport and Main Roads granted approval for traffic lights at the site at the request of the developer in preference to a roundabout, which would have cost the developer significantly more money.
Mayor Leu said she was not able to confirm with DTMR that traffic lights were being installed at the site until works began in January.
On being informed of this, Mayor Leu called urgent separate meetings with DTMR and the developer to outline Douglas Shire Council’s opposition to traffic lights and Council’s desire for a compromise.
“We were told in no uncertain terms by DTMR that the decision for traffic lights and the timing of their activation was one for DTMR alone and not for Council,” Mayor Leu said.
As a compromise, Mayor Leu proposed partially completing the works for traffic lights and holding balance monies in trust, with the completion and activation of traffic lights being deferred until a later date.
“The Department stated that a trial of a channelized intersection with the potential for traffic lights to follow was not an option due to the decision made by Cairns Regional Council in January 2013 to allow the developer to move the building from its originally approved location and the risk of an appeal from the developer for limiting their conditions,” Mayor Leu said.
“The Department also stated it had no capacity to hold monies in trust for potential later expenditure and the suggestion that Council could hold monies presented legal difficulties that would require legal advice which would take some time if it were sought.
“The builder Prime Constructions and developer Town & Country discounted a roundabout as an alternative, stating they had put numerous proposals to DTMR to avoid traffic lights or a roundabout which had not been accepted and a roundabout was significantly more expensive than traffic lights.
“The builder and developer stated they were now committed to constructing the traffic lights and meeting their contractual obligations to avoid incurring financial penalties if they sought to reduce the work already contracted.
“There is no scope for Council to pursue an alternative engineering solution.
“Unfortunately the decision can only be changed by the Department or the Minister for Transport and Main Roads, but much to my disappointment all representations made by Council on this issue have had no influence on the outcome.
“I again approached Member for Cook David Kempton on this issue last week and he informed me he will be raising the issue again with DTMR this week to see if a compromise can be reached.”