Australia: 61/11 Gates & Ors v Gold Coast City Council & Ors [2011] QPEC 120

Planning and Environment case updates

(Newton DCJ - 16 September 2011)
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Preliminary points – Court's discretion – properly made application – non-compliance with mandatory obligations under SPA – interpretation – ss. 260(1)&(3), 264 and 440 of the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 – s. 14 of the Sustainable Planning Regulation 2009 – IDAS Form 1 and Form 5

Facts: This was an application by the submitter Appellants seeking the determination of preliminary points of law. The Third Respondent ("ATV") had received an approval from the First Respondent Council for a material change of use for a tourist activity for quad bike and four wheel drive adventure tours.

On 27 June 2011 the Court held that the development application was not a properly made application because, among other things, it was not accompanied by all the required supporting material pursuant to section 260(1)(c) of the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (SPA), and was not supported by evidence of State resource allocations. The Could then adjourned the appeal to allow the parties to provide written submissions with respect to excusal of non-compliance pursuant to section 440 of the SPA.

The present issue requiring determination by the Court was how to reconcile its discretionary power to deal with a matter were non-compliance arises due to a failure to comply with an obligation under SPA which is mandatory.
Despite the broadening of the Court's discretion in the SPA, matters identified as relevant to the exercise of the discretion pursuant to section 4.1.5A of the repealed Integrated Planning Act 1997 continue to remain relevant. The following questions were relevant:

  • what was the breach;
  • what are the consequences of the breach;
  • was the breach wilful;
  • what is the reason for the breach;
  • is there an material profit from the breach;
  • has the developer suffered detriment because of the breach;
  • would the exercise of the discretion in favour of the development be likely to shut out a submitter who has a legitimate case to put;
  • what would the position be in the proceeding if there had been compliance with the legislation; and
  • would the exercise of the discretion in favour of the party give that party a significant advantage it would not have enjoyed had they complied with the legislation.

Decision: The Court held that:

  1. The Court will have regard to any prejudice which is likely to be occasioned to the submitter Appellants and the local community as a result of non-compliances in determining whether to use its discretion to grant an excusal.
  2. As the development application was premised on only being an intensification of an existing use, whereas in fact there was no existing use approved, the Court considered that the opportunity for the local community to make submissions was substantially restricted.
  3. In the circumstances it was held that the assessment manager had failed to fulfil its statutory function to have properly considered submissions under section 294 of SPA in the correct context as an application for a new use.
  4. The Court should not use its discretion to excuse the non-compliances in cases where the failure relates to non-compliance with mandatory requirements in section 260, 261 and 264 of the SPA, and where the non-compliances have prejudiced the submitter Appellants and the wider community.
  5. The development application required supporting evidence of resource entitlement relating to a State-controlled road and water resource, however no such evidence was provided with the application. The failure to comply with section 264 of SPA should not be excused pursuant to section 440 of SPA.
  6. No order should be made under section 440 of SPA to excuse the non-compliances.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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