Douglas Shire Council will proceed with a new Proposed Planning Scheme after assessing more than 600 submissions from the community.
Mayor Julia Leu said Council had been working with the community for the past two years on the “evolutionary” Proposed Planning Scheme that promotes environmental responsibility, utilises the region’s natural resources efficiently, ensures the region’s atmosphere remains clear and clean and supports the development of a diverse thriving economy.
“The driving principles of the Proposed Planning Scheme are designed to conserve the Shire’s natural environment and outstanding biodiversity values,” Mayor Leu said.
“Our natural environment is fundamental to the community’s future prosperity and consequently remains a common theme that will direct land use decision-making.
“Other important themes relate to containing urban growth to a defined footprint and promoting the best use of land that is allocated for that purpose while providing opportunities that ensure everyone is able to participate, live, work and benefit in the cohesive environment the Shire promotes.
“We have also strengthened measures to support our agricultural sector and create opportunities to add value to primary produce and diversity the base income of our farmers as well as protect rural areas from unsuitable land uses and further fragmentation.
“Other exciting initiatives include the Return to Country Local Plan which provides a framework for the future development of a range of residential and economic land uses to reflect the aspirations of the Eastern Kuku Yalanji People.
“These may include setting up ranger camps, facilitate food production and encourage communal living options currently not available to them and ongoing planning work will now progress in consultation with the local community to develop specialised planning codes.
“Overall I’m delighted with the Proposed Planning Scheme and the changes implemented after receiving the public’s feedback, we’ve cut red tape, strengthened our commitment to enhancing our unique environment and catered for the future growth and prosperity of the Douglas Shire.
“This new Planning Scheme will define how land is used in the Douglas Shire for the next 10 years, what is considered appropriate development in what locations and how that may impact on our social, environmental and financial sustainability now and into the future.”
Mayor Leu said after assessing all of the submissions, the Proposed Planning Scheme to be submitted for adoption to the State Government includes the possibility of investigating additional land available for a retirement facility in Port Douglas and makes provisions for the establishment of a Special Entertainment Precinct at a later date.
“These two issues attracted the most public submissions and Council has further considered the arguments both for and against, and we believe our adopted position delivers the best outcomes for our communities,” Mayor Leu said.
“I’m not convinced the land identified by the developer for a retirement facility on the western side of the highway is appropriate for the suggested development, but by zoning this area a Special Investigation Area the proponent has further opportunities to convince Council otherwise,” Mayor Leu said.
“Likewise I’m not convinced a Special Entertainment Precinct, and the associated costs of Council assuming all responsibility for noise control laws within this area, provides an overall benefit for our communities.
“This is why we have introduced a Live Entertainment Precinct under the Proposed Planning Scheme with a view to considering the implications of a more substantial Special Entertainment Precinct in further detail, without delaying the adoption of our new planning scheme.”
Another hot topic based on feedback was making adjustments to levels of planning assessment for low-risk, code-complying land uses to simplify planning processes, which Council has implemented where appropriate.
Returning land used for farming operations to a Rural Zone where proposed for an Environmental Management Zone and requests for a low-medium density residential zoning along the southern side of Murphy St in Port Douglas also received multiple submissions.
Mayor Leu thanked everyone who made a submission on the Proposed Planning Scheme, with all public submissions and Council’s response now available on Council’s website.
The Proposed Planning Scheme has already been honoured as winner of the Wet Tropics Management Authority Cassowary Awards Planning Initiatives for Local Government and was a finalist of the Local Government Managers Australia Queensland 2017 Awards for Excellence in Community Shaping for the Return to Country Local Plan.