Australia: Planning for future transport corridors

Infrastructure is the lifeblood of an economy. This is particularly so when it comes to transport infrastructure. Transport infrastructure facilitates trade and commerce, it connects communities, it unlocks land for development, and it is integral to our daily life. Identifying and planning future transport corridors is one of the essential roles of government. This was recently highlighted in the State Infrastructure Plan (March 2016), which outlines the State's approach to addressing Queensland's future infrastructure needs.

Controversy sometimes arises when development is conditioned to protect or enable future transport corridors. In this respect, the Courts take a practical approach in finding that development should not be delayed indefinitely until the relevant authority decides to proceed with the transport infrastructure. On the other hand, the Courts will be more willing to uphold decisions to refuse or condition development when the planning is further advanced for a transport corridor. The factors that are relevant include:

  • the existence of a decision to proceed with a proposed transport corridor;
  • the volume of work that has been done in terms of planning and public money expended in that respect;
  • whether the proposed transport corridor is identified in a planning document;
  • whether it can be stated with some degree of certainty that land will be required and whether any positive steps have been taken to implement that decision; and
  • timeframes for construction, and whether the relevant authority is ready to allocate funds for such purposes.

Where the planning documents identify that there is a clear intention for a transport corridor, issues may still arise when it comes to the timing for the dedication and construction of the transport corridor. Such was the case in Intrapac Parkridge Pty Ltd v Logan City Council & Anor [2014] QPEC 48 where a dispute arose regarding the dedication and construction of a new road, called UA2, through a greenfield site at Park Ridge that was being developed by Australand. The provision of that part of UA2 through Australand's site would provide access and linkages to the external road network for not only Australand's site, but also adjacent land owned by the submitter appellant, Intrapac. Australand's development would effectively give Intrapac a point of access to the external road network through the Australand site.

In that case, Australand's development approval was a preliminary approval for material change of use (for a staged residential estate) and a development permit for reconfiguration of a lot for Stage 1. Intrapac contended that Australand should dedicate the entire length of UA2 during Stage 1 and construct that part of UA2 on the Australand site before completing Stage 2. This would give Intrapac the ability to connect to the road network after Stage 1 of Australand's development. The Council's position was that the part of the UA2 land within Stage 1 should be dedicated and constructed during that stage and the remainder of UA2 be dedicated and constructed during Stage 2.

Australand, on the other hand, contended that it was not obliged to dedicate or construct UA2 within Stages 1 or 2 of its development. It pointed to the provisions of the Park Ridge Structure Plan which envisaged that development of the Australand and Intrapac sites would occur within a 15 to 20 year timeframe. In light of that development sequencing, and given that the life of Australand's preliminary approval was 15 years, it argued that it should not have to dedicate and construct UA2 until the very last stage of its development.

The Court recognised the obvious commercial implications and considered it undesirable for conditions to be formulated that left uncertainty along the corridor and which would potentially delay the orderly development of other land in the area. The Court noted that the planning scheme did not provide that development in this part of the structure plan area was to be 'postponed' for 15 to 20 years. Development in advance was indeed contemplated and the timely establishment of appropriate infrastructure, links and relationships with the surrounding area would only serve to support achievement of the planning scheme's intentions for the broader area. The imposition of lawful conditions directed at the opportunity for that to occur was for a proper planning purpose. Ultimately, the Court imposed conditions requiring Australand to dedicate the entire length of UA2 through its site to the boundary of the Intrapac site, to construct UA2 within Stage 1, and to construct the balance of UA2 when Australand constructs Stage 2.

The effect of these conditions was to secure the UA2 corridor at the outset so that the orderly development of other land in the locality would not be postponed if Australand did not proceed beyond Stage 1. Intrapac (or another developer) could obtain access by constructing that part of UA2 through Stage 2 of the Australand site if that part, although dedicated, had not yet been constructed by Australand.

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