Conservationists in 'final battle' to save Taylor Point from development
CONSERVATIONISTS who have spent 27 years campaigning to preserve Cairns' only remaining unspoilt headland hope a court hearing which began yesterday will be the final showdown with developers.
It is the third time a development application for the untouched outcrop, north of Trinity Beach, has been before a judge with previous owners trying to get their plans through court in the 1980s and 1990s.
Opponents of a new plan for 30 residential lots on the 18.8ha site believe the case will test whether the council’s planning laws can prevent over-development of the region’s hill slopes.
The 10-day hearing will examine local developer Robert Prettejohn’s appeal over the council’s rejection of his proposal in 2010, despite the project being approved by the Department of Environment and Resource Management.
Outside court, Environmental Defenders Office principal solicitor Patrick Pearlman, who is representing the Save Our Slopes protest group, said the case would set a precedent for the effectiveness of Cairns Regional Council’s planning laws. "Certainly it is our contention that it is going to be very important in terms of determining whether or not council’s goals and objectives in reducing the degree to which the hill slopes around here are developed is going to be implemented, or if more of the hill slopes will be developed," he said "This is the last undeveloped headland on the urban coast and we would certainly like to see it remain that way."
Mr Prettejohn’s barrister, Christopher Hughes SC, said the proposal was more environmentally friendly than previous bids to build more than 200 units on the site. "Previous attempts have been a bit greedy," Mr Hughes said. "The housing (in Mr Prettejohn’s plan) is not obvious, but nestles in."
He said there was a perception the land was open to the public for fishing and other recreational activities, but that was not the case and it had always been privately owned. Mr Prettejohn would, however, ensure two areas were available for public access to the beach should his plan gain approval, the court heard.
John Vagg, a leading legal consultant for planning and environment cases in Queensland, told The Cairns Post a 30-year battle over land was "unusual". He said if the court upheld the council’s decision, Mr Prettejohn, who built the eco-friendly Thala Beach Lodge near Port Douglas, could only take the case to the Queensland Court of Appeal if he believed an error of law had been made.
The hearing continues today before Judge Bill Everson, who will be asked to decide whether a proposal for the development to go from 31 houses to 30 is so major that the plans will have to be resubmitted to the council.
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