CONCERNED: The implications of the State's move to denser housing developments has Cr David Pahlke up in arms.
CONCERNED: The implications of the State's move to denser housing developments has Cr David Pahlke up in arms. David Nielsen

WARNING: 'Sardine city' is on Ipswich's horizon

HIS concern about leaving a legacy of "sardine city" will see Cr David Pahlke likely abstain from voting on the planning committee's submission to the draft South East Queensland Regional Plan in council on Tuesday.

City planning boss Cr Andrew Antoniolli said the draft plan provided for the increase from 10 to 15 blocks per hectare to 15 to 25 blocks per hectare in new developments, or greenfield sites. He said that provision was also for areas near to transport hubs.

Cr Pahlke, who conceded the demand for small blocks was market driven, said in the recent planning committee meeting that there were legacies he did not wish to leave and he was concerned about the social impacts of smaller blocks sizes in developments.

"When it was 10 to 15 blocks per hectare the developers always went for 15," he told the QT.

"Now it is going from 15 to 25 and developers will always want to go for the maximum. I just believe we are leaving a legacy of 'sardine city'.

"I am concerned that council won't have the control to develop larger blocks where they want to. There is a need for small blocks, but they have to be close to transport, services and shopping centres.

"But when there are 10 blocks of 270 square metres side-by-side where do they park their cars? Early Springfield was a good example of that where there were cars parked all over the roads.

"In 20 years time we will have house next to house and you will have to take the lawnmower through the house to mow the back yard, and no trees."

Cr Antoniolli said Cr Pahlke was entitled to his view, but added "our planning scheme has sufficient rigour in it to mount quality arguments against such densification in areas where it isn't necessary or beneficial to good community outcomes".

"The smaller the lots the closer they must be to recreation space, and that is what it currently is under our scheme," he said.

"That puts the developers under pressure to consider the provision of that recreational space.

"We don't see carte blanche small lot developments. We see a mix of small, medium and large. But the city of Ipswich can't have one planning scheme for Division 10 and another one for nine divisions.

"The planning scheme is a living and breathing document which takes into account all factors.

"So rural areas get looked at differently to an urban area already.

"If there is a large block of vacant land not far from the railway station at Rosewood then a developer is going to try and maximise their returns.

"If they can justify the densification as per the SEQ Regional Plan there is no valid argument against it, then we will have to approve it.

"But if the council just has a view that 'we just don't want it', then a developer could appeal it and win at court because that is what the regional plan provides for."

Cr Pahlke said he would likely not vote at the full council meeting on the planning committee's submission.

"I am not comfortable with it," he said.

"The State Government will say 'Ipswich supports this' but I say 'I have some concerns about it'. So I will probably abstain from voting on it. I am reflecting what my residents are telling me."

He admits the council's hands are tied but Cr Antoniolli says "we understand where the State is coming from" with regard to denser housing developments.

The move from 10 to 15 blocks per hectare to 15 to 25 per hectare in new developments has its critics.

"Our hands are tied, but clearly densification has its benefits and is in demand," Cr Antoniolli said.

"There are many people out there looking for small lots where they don't need to do as much maintenance.

"That is obviously a lifestyle choice for a certain time in their life.

"Clearly affordability is also an issue that is part of that. You would certainly be looking at greater densification in areas around transport hubs.

"In our submission (to the draft SEQ Regional Plan), while we have generally accepted the push for greater densification, don't forget that in our planning scheme we put rigour behind where you can have it.

"But if you do the maths, at 25 lots per hectare you are around the 250 square metre mark.

"That could be a mix of tenements, town houses and individual detached housing - but they would be small."

Cr Antoniolli said lot sizes varied and were not as large as they were 20 years ago when 600 and 700 square metres was considered small.

"Now a lot of lots are around the 450 mark and you have a lot smaller than that again.

"It is the market that demands what people wants, and lifestyle choice."

"But I can't see a developer wanting to build a development they are not going to sell.

"I personally had a view on small lots and I could not see how there would be a market for anything under 400 square metres, but the market has proven me wrong in the Ripley area and Springfield.

"People are making the conscious choice to buy small lots based on lifestyle or affordability.

"It is a personal choice for them.

"Densification helps us to manage urban sprawl and ensure better environmental outcomes and It means the provision of services for public transport can be better patronised."

Cr Pahlke said he had encouraged developers of the Waterlea development at Walloon to mix it up, with promising results.

"The first stage of 100 blocks averaged 400 square metres, the second stage averaged 550 and the third is now averaging 650, and the response has been good," he said.