Residents have raised concerns about the approval of a townhouse development in the Sovereign Pocket estate in Deebing Heights.
Residents have raised concerns about the approval of a townhouse development in the Sovereign Pocket estate in Deebing Heights.

Estate residents blindsided by townhouse development

RESIDENTS of an Ipswich housing estate said they were blindsided when construction started on a new townhouse development, which they believed would remain as green space.

Fencing on an empty lot in Sovereign Pocket went up so quickly that cars using the land for parking were locked inside.

The block had previously housed developer Stockland’s sales office.

The eight three-bedroom townhouses were approved in 2018.
The eight three-bedroom townhouses were approved in 2018.

Public notification was not required for the eight three-bedroom townhouses over two-storeys, which were approved in 2018.

Each unit will have a single car lockup garage.

When construction started in early October, shocked residents say they were not aware it was even happening.

They say they are furious as they believe the development does not fit the character of the estate, which is mostly single-storey houses, and will only add to the traffic issues on already busy narrow streets.

Residents also fear the new development on Sovereign Dr will push down the value of their properties.

Michael Hough said the lot was left as an open space when the sales office was moved and it had been used by residents as a recreation space and for off-street parking.

He said Stockland never made it clear that the site would be turned into townhouses and there was no mention of it when he bought land in Sovereign Pocket three years ago.

His sentiment is shared by other residents.

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Mr Hough gathered more than 200 signatures for a petition presented to Ipswich City Council last month, calling on the council to add a “more thorough” on-site assessment of pre-existing dwellings to the draft of the new Ipswich Planning Scheme.

“None of the residents were aware this was happening,” he said.

“The first we knew about it was when fences were being erected around the site.”

A council spokesman said when the estate was rezoned from rural to urban in 2003, plans showed this development site was “intended as a future unit site.”

A court order in 2010 zoned the land for residential mixed density.

“The zoning that was created via the 2010 court order allowed for a number of small pockets of potential unit development to be considered as part of the overall estate,” he said.

“If the proposed units did not exceed two storeys in height and 50 dwellings per hectare, then any future application required to approve that type of proposal did not have to go through public notification, but could be considered as code assessable.

Old brochure of the Sovereign Pocket estate in Deebing Heights.
Old brochure of the Sovereign Pocket estate in Deebing Heights.

“With respect to the planning procedures, (Stockland followed proper procedure).

“The proposed development achieves a residential density of 48.45 dwellings per hectare and achieves a maximum building height of two storeys.”

But residents argue they should have been able to have a say, especially when houses only started to pop up in the estate after 2011.

Mr Hough and his family bought land in the estate in 2017 to build a home.

The development site was sold by Stockland to SandSky Developments for $350,000 in March 2018.

“Stockland pamphlets, they were all about the open space of Sovereign Pocket,” he said.

“It’s all about parklands and walking paths and open spaces.

“That’s what Stockland’s sales pitch was.

“In 2017, it was still pitched as being an open space. You look at their plans, (the development site is) green, it’s got trees on it so you subconsciously think that’s a park.

“Now residents who have been there a little longer, since probably about 2014, they asked the question of Stockland and they said they basically didn’t know what that space was going to be.”

Hr Hough said another townhouse block on Bottlebrush Dr, which was also constructed by SandSky, already did not fit the area.

“99 per cent of this estate is single-storeys on single lots,” he said.

“(The existing townhouse) is out of character and it’s unsightly because it’s unkempt.

“People are worried about property values.

“Especially those on Miskin Way and Currawong St, they’ve got a two-storey townhouse right in front of them now where you had an open view across the estate and out towards the bushland.

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“That’s all ruined for them now. People have concerns about what sort of people are going to go in there. Potentially each home is three-bedroom so it could be up to six people in one of those townhouses. They’re only 139 sqm total living space which is pretty tiny.

“As a collective, the residents feel deceived.”

Another estate resident, who did not want to be named, said the new townhouses would only add to traffic woes on the narrow streets.

“We live on a blind spot on Sovereign Dr,” she said.

“The only time I get to see someone is when it’s too late, when I’m out of my driveway already.

“I’ve had multiple near misses coming out of my driveway already.”

She said the issue wasn’t so much that green space was gone but with what was going in its place.

“We wouldn’t mind if they divided it and put more single profile houses on it but two-storey townhouses is just beyond ridiculous,” she said.

“You look on Stockland’s map at the time (when she bought) and it was just green. Green according to their site map indicated green space.

“We’d managed to somehow buy a house in an estate and not have to look straight into my neighbour’s garage who is shirtless drinking a beer because that’s exactly the experience we’d had coming in and looking at houses.

“The day we walked into it we put a deposit down on it and that was it.

“It’s devastating for us.”

An old brochure of Sovereign Pocket.
An old brochure of Sovereign Pocket.

A Stockland spokesperson said the zoning was disclosed in contracts.

“We understand and appreciate the concerns of some of our residents over the development of this land,” they said.

“The site was previously occupied by the Stockland sales office and was always zoned for residential land-use, in line with the original development approval, and the zoning was disclosed in Stockland resident contracts for adjoining stages at Sovereign Pocket.

“SandSky Developments now own this lot and plans to develop it in accordance with Stockland’s design essentials and Ipswich City Council conditions of approval.”

Ipswich Mayor Teresa Harding said she met with residents on October 9 and took part in a community meeting alongside Division 1 councillors Jacob Madsen and Sheila Ireland on October 12.

“I encouraged residents to make a petition to council and offered for council’s senior planning staff, myself and Cr Ireland and Cr Madsen to meet with them and provide any publicly available information council had on the land,’ she said.

“This meeting took place immediately after the October 22 council meeting.

“In this instance, the applicant has been through the correct and legal planning processes and the development was given the green light before this new council was elected to office.

“Council has requested a formal briefing paper in response to the petition and the concerns raised by the residents.”

Blair MP Shayne Neumann said he had spoken to residents and could understand their frustration and anxiety about the development.

“They’ve felt very much misled about that block of land,” he said.

“There are brochures I’ve seen which indicate they were justified in feeling that was going to be left the way it was (as green space).

“I’ve suggested they get legal advice.”

Read more stories by Lachlan McIvor here.