DELIBERATIVE DEMOCRACY FOR NEIGHBOURHOOD PLANS
We want to put power back in the hands of residents. The Greens will:
democratise local planning and give residents a binding vote on neighbourhood plans.
tighten planning rules to end special deals for developers, making height limits and boundary setbacks binding and non-negotiable.
limit for-profit residential, commercial, and mixed-used development within flood-prone areas.
place reasonable limits on weekend and late-night construction noise.
Our political system has been corrupted and residents feel like they’ve lost control of their communities. Right now, local governments write neighbourhood plans, conduct tokenistic “community consultation” and then approve the plans with very little scrutiny or meaningful public input. It’s hardly surprising that we end up with neighbourhood plans that drastically increase density but don’t improve public infrastructure and services. We want to put power in the hands of residents by launching a groundbreaking trial of deliberative neighbourhood democracy. Residents are experts in their own neighbourhoods, and have valuable insights to contribute to the planning process.
Instead of being written and then rubber-stamped by local governments, neighbourhood plans would be produced by residents working in close collaboration with planning experts and elected councillors. The specific form of collaboration would be tailored to each local area and could include online platforms, public forums, or even “citizen juries.”
RESIDENTS HAVE THE FINAL SAY
Before council adopts a new Neighbourhood Plan, it would need to be approved by a binding community referendum. Brisbane City Council would still need to approve the plans, but could only do so if the plan had majority support from local residents. These community votes on neighbourhood plans and major city plan amendments would be non-compulsory, but would coincide with Local or State Government elections to maximise turnout and participation.
TIGHTEN NEIGHBOURHOOD PLANS
In a system where housing is treated as a commodity, we need strict rules to ensure developers don’t compromise on design to maximise their profits.
STRICT AND BINDING HEIGHT LIMITS
Individual developers should not be allowed ‘performance-based’ exemptions to height limits, as the potential for corruption is too high. Developers and landowners need certainty, but too often, a site zoned for a maximum 10 storeys is approved for a development of 15 or even 20 storeys.
PROPER TRANSITIONING AND NO EXEMPTIONS TO BOUNDARY SETBACKS
The Greens would seek to abolish exemptions to side or rear boundary setbacks. Setback limits can always be changed through the neighbourhood planning process, but not on an ad hoc basis for individual developers. In much the same way, neighbourhood plans must also ensure appropriate height and boundary transitions occur between zones.
BINDING REQUIREMENTS FOR TREES AND GREEN SPACE
The Greens would make sure that publicly-accessible green space and other community facilities are provided on-site for major developments, in addition to creating new public parks in the surrounding area. Developers would also be required to allocate funding for maintenance of on-site green space in advance. We believe that for multi-unit residential and mixed-use developments, at least 20% of the site area should be allocated for deep-planted trees. (Currently the minimum deep planting requirement is only 10% of the site area. In response to pressure from the Greens, the LNP publicly committed to increasing this to 15%, but have not yet actually done so)
LESS CONSTRUCTION NOISE ON SUNDAYS
Currently Brisbane City Council allows for construction noise between 6.30am and 6.30pm Monday to Saturday. Council also regularly undertakes or approves nightworks outside of these hours, both for private developers and public projects. We propose tightening the rules so that nightworks outside of standard construction times can only be approved in exceptional circumstances. We also propose bringing Brisbane standard construction times into line with Victoria and New South Wales, where construction noise is allowed 7.00am to 6.00pm Monday to Friday and 8.00am to 1.00pm on Saturday. These changes would be implemented in consultation with construction workers, unions and businesses. Where earlier starting times are required due to heat, the total number of hours should be consistent with Victoria and New South Wales. Special exemptions would be permitted for emergency works and special projects, but only if there was a clear public interest in doing so.
NO DEVELOPMENT IN EXTREMELY FLOOD-PRONE AREAS
Long-term climate change modelling suggests that rising sea levels and changing rainfall patterns mean floods in Queensland will become more frequent and severe in the future. We are calling for strict limits preventing for-profit residential, commercial, and mixed-used development within Flood Planning Areas 1 to 5 of the City Plan Flood Overlay. Such sites should only be used for public projects, parks and nature reserves, sport and recreation, agricultural purposes, nurseries and landscaping supplies, and car parking. Existing flood buy-back programs should be extended to these areas where appropriate.
But isn’t flexibility a good thing?
Our plan would preserve flexibility within all areas of the City and Neighbourhoods Plans except for those relating to height limits, boundary setbacks, and deep planting requirements. Allowing developers to build above the height limit is the equivalent of handing over millions of dollars of additional real estate value and leaves the door wide open for corruption and dodgy dealings. When height and setback limits are treated as negotiable, this creates an unacceptable level of uncertainty for residents and the property industry.
Does voting on neighbourhood plans encourage nimbyism?
Nimbyism (‘Not In My Back Yard’) is a product of a broken planning system that prioritises developer profits over people. When residents have no meaningful way to help shape how their neighbourhoods are constructed, often their only available option is to loudly and adamantly say ‘NO’ to everything; it is this feeling of powerlessness that drives irrational opposition to any kind of change in a neighbourhood. By empowering residents to meaningfully participate in the planning process, our plan encourages greater engagement, fosters urban planning literacy, and delivers well-informed deliberative decision making. Residents who feel completely excluded from a formal decision-making process are more likely to oppose change, whereas residents who’ve been able to collaborate in defining and planning for change are more likely to support positive improvements in their community.
Who gets a vote on neighbourhood plans?
All residents over the age of 15 who are currently living in an area that’s impacted by a neighbourhood plan would be eligible to vote regardless of their citizenship or visa status. Anyone who lives within the Council Ward that covers the neighbourhood plan would receive a vote (e.g. all Gabba Ward residents would be able to vote on the South Brisbane Riverside Neighbourhood Plan). So voting would be open both to residents living within the neighbourhood plan area, and to those living immediately outside it. Voting would be optional and neighbourhood plans would require majority support (50% + 1) to be adopted. If less than 10% of residents cast a vote, the result will only be advisory rather than binding, and the vote must be held again and council must proactively promote it to ensure greater participation.
Do business owners get a vote?
Business owners would only get a vote if they live within the Council Ward that covers the relevant neighbourhood plan. It is very easy to register a business (or even multiple businesses) within an area and this could be manipulated to unfairly skew the vote. Business owners would be welcome to engage with local residents and encourage them to vote one way or another.
Can’t developers design around flooding issues?
Even if your actual apartment is well above the flood level, if the power, sewerage and water pumps fail in your building, that’s not a healthy place to be trapped while you wait a few days for floodwaters to recede. Developers like to say that you can design around the problem, but the best way to design around flooding is to not build in the riverbed in the first place. There are many other uses that flood-prone land can be put to, so the land is never going to be ‘wasted’.