Developments in Thornlands – Don’t let history repeat itself?

Poor Planning decisions of the past – current South East Thornlands impacts commenced as far back as 2003 (and the most important meeting was in August 2006 where the fate of Thornlands was sealed.)

I have always had an interest in planning and since being elected in 2008, trying to understand how South East Thornlands was allowed to be planned so poorly without thought for future residents has been difficult to comprehend.

 Due to increased public interest I have decided to write a post to help clarify some of these lesser known facts and issues that I have researched relating to South East Thornlands area plan. I hope it is of interest to you because it shows how a City Plan can be planned without vision without listening to and considering sufficient  public consultation and valuable input. 

Some are trying to shift blame for their own obvious lack of vision and over development attitude to the immediate previous council.  Well, that is incorrect and if nothing else this area is a clear example of poor planning with a total lack of vision that illustrates the importance of a City Plan. 

In the 1988 Planning Scheme and 1998  Strategic Plan this area was to “play an important part in the separation of Thornlands and Victoria Point”.  Our forefathers could see the significance of this land as a break in the suburbs. 

Developers by 2002/03 had different ideas , as did the then presiding Mayor Don Seccombe when applications started to come to Council.  

After the 2004 Election there was a Council (still with Don Seccombe as Mayor) that voted to include South East Thornlands  in the new Planning Scheme as an” Emerging Urban Community.”   Various present Councillors were part of these old decisions and on reading the minutes you can see there were some Councillors that worked hard to achieve a more visionary planning outcome for the community.  Basically it came down to the voting numbers with the old 6 votes beats 5 .  Karen Williams and Alan Beard voted for this development plan of Thornlands while other current Councillors Murray Elliott and Craig Ogilvie , who arguably had more vision, voted against.

 In March 2006 , the Redlands Planning Scheme was adopted without South East Thornlands, included as the State government had imposed Ministerial conditions to have certain areas removed from the Planning Scheme which Council had submitted for review.  However, a few months later in August in a Special Meeting,  it was moved that the South East Thornlands Structure Plan be endorsed and to seek approval for the necessary amendments to the Redlands Planning scheme.

 Of the present 2015 Councillors that were in council back then –  Karen Williams and Alan Beard voted in favour of this plan while Murray Elliott and Craig Ogilvie voted against.

This is an example where the Council pushed while the State had requested the area to stay mainly rural.

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It is clear in this 2006 newspaper article the local residents had a clear understanding of what the area was  being planned to become….overdeveloped     One glaring error was that there was not enough community parkland to even meet council’s own requirement.

2007 the First State Review of the Thornlands Structure Plan came back to Council with an accompanying 57 pages of points to be clarified or concerns:- traffic issues, infrastructure requirements, situation of pathways and cycleways, significant koala habitat, coastal protection, not currently integrate with overall outcomes at a regional level etc etc. 

2008 January public exhibition commenced of the plan for Thornlands. In March there was an Election. 

 I was elected in March 2008 ( Melva Hobson was elected as Mayor) and this was the first project I remember starting was when the then Councillor for the Thornland’s area Debra Henry asked the “new” council to work on obtaining a better outcome for the area. 

First thing the council did was to extend the community consultation time for the already existing Structure Plan and with the now defined densities etc we started to see how a better planning outcome could be achieved.

We realised according to Councils Policies and Plans there was not  sufficient park land for the area and so we commenced the process of Council then having to buy land to ensure these residents would have some open space, while reviewing the plan.  

In March 2010, council resolved to acquire land for a designated district park  and also a 10m strip of land along either side of Redland Bay Road to be used as a buffer for landscaping and noise attenuation treatments. (This was purchased by Redland City Council from Heritage Pacific and also Ausbuild)  

Recently, I drove to the area to have a look and this parkland adds enormous lifestyle value to the area.   One could argue that the developers should be paying council, as it is their main selling feature.   I also noted the use of emotive Street names, using environmental themes.

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Even though Mayor Hobson’s council was criticized by some for this purchase, most councillors agreed we were obliged to fix up the poor decisions of the previous council.  I stood by our decision then and on reflection there is no doubt by many others now that this decision was a very wise one and will be much appreciated by the growing South East Thornlands community.

One can see in the comparison below the increase in parkland and open space the last council made to the plan. 

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Cr Karen Williams was the only councillor to vote against this purchase of parkland for the future residents with Cr John Burns (Cr Julie Talys father) absent. 

In 2012,  there was another election and changes happened yet again in this area…now there has been 3 councils involved in the planning of the area:-

  1. the Seccombe council who intiated the plan,
  2. the Hobson Council who made changes seeking to to improve the planning of the area including increasing the open space and now there is the
  3. William’s council.

 August 2012 the State approved the area being removed from the South East Queensland Regional Plan State Planning Regulatory Provisions map.  This was to allow more effective processing without the State being a referral agency.   It also means there wasn’t a State check of any changes made.

 Since 2012 , Council has made various changes to infrastructure charges and development plans for individual developers who are stakeholders in the area.  It is doubtful that the community has benefited very much from these changes.

 Wise Planning is Needed

 Planning history of South East Thornlands in a nut shell..

  • SET Structure Plan commenced  back under Seccombe in 2004,
  • planned and adopted in 2006 ,
  • some open space changes made to SET Structure Plan under the Hobson council in 2011 and
  • now in 2015,  Redlands under the Williams (who voted in 2006 for the plan) Council,  more changes in the particular development applications rather than area planning and
  • Redlands community is seeing the result of these lack of vision 2006 planning decisions.

 Did the State force this upon Redlands? No

Could a more appropriate and better design have been planned? Yes

 The sad story of South East Thornlands demonstrates that short term gain for influential developers often results in long term pain for the community – one way or another.  It shouldn’t have to be that way.

I will continue to talk on the importance of wise planning and having a vision of the future outcome. I encourage everyone to be involved in the City Plan when it is open for public consultation.

Many residents back in 2006 warned of the bad planning consequences of SE Thornlands planning. Lets learn from this example. Unfortunately, not enough changes can be made once the structure plan was in place.

If you don’t like what you see?…remember this is a product of the 2006 Council and recent decisions…so be involved, talk to councillors and together let’s ensure we do all we can to achieve more acceptable lifestyle outcomes.

 If you would like to read the detailed timeline of events I have attached them and newspaper article.

Summary of timeline for South East Thornlands


Structure Plan for South East Thornlands
  • Council endorsed draft structure Plan – Crs Williams, Alan Beard, John Burns, Peter Dowling , Barker and Seccombe voted in the affirmative. 

Against :- Crs Murray, Elliott, Bowler, Henry and Ogilvie 


Hobson (new Mayor after election)

  • Consultation period extended by new council
  • 20% increase in open space and increased environmental protection by 4.0 ha by new council
  • All councillors except Cr Williams voted to purchase the parkland
  • Council adopted South East Thornlands Structure Plan

Full Time line for South East Thornlands
  • Commenced under Mayor Don Seccombe
  • Land had previously been designated by the State Gov. as a Major Development Area (MDA) under the provisions of the South East Queensland Regional Plan 2005-2026.  Also included with the Emerging urban community (EUC) zone of the Redlands Planning Scheme.  Both the MDA designation and EUC zone requires the preparation of a structure pan for the area.
  • Structure planning commenced in 2006
  • 31 January 2006 , First Community Reference Group Meeting
  • July 2006, Second community Reference Group Meeting
  • August 2006, Third Community Reference Group Meeting
  • Various reports, traffic impact study, water management infrastructure etc
  • 21st August 2006 –  Council resolved to endorse a draft Structure Plan under the South East Queensland Regional Plan 2005 -2026  in a  Closed meeting  Crs Williams, Beard, Burns,(Julie Talty‘s father) Dowling, Barker and Seccombe voted in the affirmative.  Crs Murray, Elliott, Bowler, Henry and Ogilvie voted in the negative.
  • The draft plan was submitted for First State Interest Review
  • 6th November 2006 – letter from Andrew Fraser to Mayor Don Seccombe acknowledging concerns of residents and requesting these be considered.
  • Flood report
2008 Council Election 15/03/08
  • 25th January 2008 – Letter from Andrew Fraser A/Minister for Infrastructure and Planning to CEO Susan Rankin concerning councils’ response to the First State Interest Review of the draft. Lists concerns of the State – the position of local centre/mixed use precinct                                                            

–          Greenspace along Eprapah Creek

–          Koala habitat impacts

–          Pedestrian and bicycle permeability            

This letter then allowed council to proceed with public notification

  • 30th January 2008 – Public Notification
  • General meeting 27th February 2008 Item no. 11.3.1                                       Council Resolution to commence public notification of the draft south-East Thornlands Structure Plan and Associated Redlands Planning Scheme amendments.
  • Public consultation to be from 04 March to the 02 May 2008  
  • 4th March 2008 documents released, only 10 days before the councilelection, under the heading Background Information.  Residents complained that 472 pages, 97 tables and 240 maps released 10 days before an election was unfair.
  • 4-03-08 – South East Thornlands Structure Plan – component 1,2,3  and 4
  • 15th March 2008 – Local Council Election new mayor and councillors elected.  Mayor now  Melva Hobson
  • New council extended the submission period until 2 June 2008 after listening to community’s concerns as above
  •  At the close of this time 769 submissions had been received.
  • July 2008 council adopts revised local Growth management Strategy (LGMS) for the City
Population and dwelling estimates for SE Thornlands Dwellings Population
Single detached dwellings 700 1,891
Multi-unit dwellings 822 1,397
Total 1,522 3,287
  • 21 November 2008 –  media release…More Open space in amended South-east Thornlands Structure Plan – new council had achieved a 20% increase in open space from original plan and increased environmental protection by 4.0ha  by purchasing land.
2009 State reviewed Plan
  • 31 March 2010 General meeting adopted SET structure Plan
  • 31 March Council resolved to negotiate to purchase the land for the District park (2.7 ha).
  • 2 July 2010 Council resolved to negotiate the purchase of 1.7 ha for local recreation park and urban bushland habitat of 1.8 ha.
  • Wednesday 22 Sept. 2010 14.3.1 District Park Land Acquisition – S E Thornalnds Structure Plan Area council voted to buy land for park for future residnts…all councillors voted in favour except Karen Williams (Councillor John Burns was absent)
  • 17 November council resolved to purchase a 10m strip of land to facilitate noise attenuation measures anticipated  in the SET Structure plan (W side of Cleveland Redland bay Rd)
  • 30th March 2011 Council resolved to purchase a 10m strip of land on the Eastern side of Cleveland Redland Bay Rd for noise attenuation purposes.
2012 Council election Cr Williams voted in as new Mayor.

  • Since 2012 election various infrastructure reductions and development changes have been approved