The proposed Peregian development that cost Noosa Council $1 million in legal costs.
The proposed Peregian development that cost Noosa Council $1 million in legal costs.

High legal cost of ‘keeping Noosa special’

HAVING spent almost $2 million on defending an appeal for the Noosa Civic expansion refusal and a protracted Peregian development stoush, it's little wonder council is looking to try and claw back some ratepayers' cash through the planning court.

Noosa councillors next week will debate the merits of lobbying the State Government to allow the Planning and Environment Court to consider awarding costs to council if a development application is "found to significantly conflict with the planning scheme".

Councillors will also vote on the recommendation by its development assessment manager Kerri Coyle to submit a motion to the Local Government Association of Queensland seeking support for this legislative reform.

"What is typically happening now, is that an application that is contrary to the planning scheme is refused by council with the applicant appealing to the Planning and Environment Court," Ms Coyle said in a report to council.

"Council is then spending significant ratepayer funds to defend the planning scheme in court and in our council's case, successfully defending our planning scheme.

"Yet in those cases, ratepayer funds are being expended with no prospect of recovery of those costs despite the application being found to be contrary to the planning scheme," she said.

Ms Coyle said since March 2016, there have been 34 planning appeals lodged with council successfully defending all seven matters which proceeded to trial.

Of the rest, 17 appeals were settled after amended plans were provided by the applicant or agreement reached on amended conditions, with 10 appeals withdrawn.

Council spent $1,070,478 on legal fees defending the legal challenge surrounding a Peregian accommodation development wrangle, which finally saw a negotiated settlement, while the Civic expansion refusal cost $803,471 to successfully defend at trial.

The Noosa On Weyba development court battle cost $316,148 to defend before the appeal was eventually withdrawn while a recent planning court win after refusing permanent stays at a Noosa North Shore unit complex burnt a $291,249 whole in council's coffers.