Details of the Reis Rd development to think about. 1. Removing all vegetation/trees on the northern side of Reis Rd.

If the current application is approved as it is, all the vegetation on the northern side of Reis Rd (the side where the development will be) will be removed, including the vegetation in the roadside reserve.

As you read the justification provided by the development application, keep the following in mind, i) this vegetation is in a road reserve, ii) the road reserve is public land (council controlled), iii) the Council should manage this community asset in the best interests of the community, iv) the TRC has a tree policy which makes very strong recommendations around the preservation of such assets (read the TRC street and park tree policy (2017)).

A few other considerations:

i) Reis Rd is classified as a distributor road. No direct access (driveways) are typically permitted onto these roads. Take a look at Highfields Rd (between the Village shopping centre and Polzin Rd) for example. A very brutal approach to road widening (could do with some trees or a footpath), but as a distributor it has no driveways directly on to it. The council will have to make an exception to allow the driveways to destroy the roadside reserve along Reis Rd.

The upgraded section of Highfields Rd.

ii) Reis Rd can be widened to provide adequate traffic movement without removing all the vegetation. A footpath on the southern side of the road would be one more that it has now! If a footpath is required on the northern side, why not put it on the other side of the vegetation – would make for a more pleasant pedestrian experience.

iii) the vegetation in the roadside reserve includes over 50 species of native plants, many of them remnants of the dry rainforest/vine forests that used to be present in this area. It is not just the big eucalypts that are there, although the EIA consultant didn’t seem to be able to see anything else. Some of those trees are thought to be 50-200 years old. This vegetation forms one of the few remaining links between the escarpment, Klein Ck and Rogers Reserve.

iv) The smaller blocks in the development that won’t support large trees or ‘messy’ habitat, and the the complete absence of any park in the development, means that these roadside slivers of vegetation is all that will remain to provide a veneer of the Highfields character. It will provide a visual break from the sea of roofs, and valuable shade and habitat for the neighbourhood. Being able to see trees and the birds and other animals that visit them is well recognised as being good for the emotional and pychological health of people.

Aerial of Reis – Barracks – Kuhls Roads.

If this road reserve is bulldozed for the convenience of the developer, it sets a precedent that will likely see all roadside vegetation removed along Barracks Rd, Kuhls Rd, Cabarlah Park Rd, and the northern end of Cronin Rd. Huge swaths of irreplaceable community assets, destroyed. The character and liveability of Highfields will be irrevocably changed forever.

 

There are several justifications for the clearing of this vegetation made in the application. For the most part they relate to the inconvenience to the development and the perceived lack of value the vegetation has, and the danger it poses to the public.

The Ecological Impact Assessment Reis Rd (EIA) commissioned by the developer makes the following findings and recommendations:

No trees were identified to be retained [either in the development block, or the roadside reserve] due to:

  • unsuitability of species present for retention in an urban environment
  • extent of works proposed for Reis Rd including road widening, installation of public utilities, the location of the individual trees and their health status, and
  • location of inter-allotment drainage, sewer infrastructure and proposed lot boundaries”

The EIA goes on t0 say “Based on an evaluation of the site values, the proposed development is not considered to have a major impact on significant or unique ecological value on the site and in the immediate surrounding landscape.”

The Engineering Advice concludes that “the existing trees pose a significant risk to public safety and must be removed for the following reasons:

  • the existing road requires widening to meet the standards of a distributor….
  • clear zone and SISD requirements cannot be met whilst retaining the trees. Removal of the trees will result in increased motorist and pedestrian safety.
  • installation of services…..cannot be undertaken without significant damage to the root network of existing trees ….
  • establishment of future residential allotments in close proximity to existing trees, especially those with poor to fair health scores, create unnecessary risk to property owners due to the zone of influence of tree root systems and the impact of changed soil moisture conditions on footings.

For these reasons we recommend the removal of trees for the widening of Reis Rd and associated development of residential allotments.”

The DA includes a Streetscape Planting Report which includes mock ups of what Reis Rd would look like post-development. I have placed alongside, the current view up Reis Rd.  Which do you prefer?

Click to enlarge image

Click to enlarge image

 

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February 15 2018. TRC requests more information. 60 day halt to DA assessment.

On 15 February 2018, the TRC Development Services planner wrote to the developer requesting additional information. In response to this request, the developer has requested (and received from the TRC) a 60 day halt to the assessment of the application whilst they gather the necessary information.

In summary, the issues outstanding are:

  1. The layout of the development in relation to Reis Rd
    1. Currently the proposal is to have 24 of the 48 houses exiting directly onto Reis Rd; 24 driveways and one access road between Kuhls Rd and the creek.
    2. the TRC has requested that a design for Reis Rd, which includes the retention of existing trees in the roadside reserve, be submitted for consideration
    3. The TRC is seeking further information on the impacts of the development on the Reis Rd/O’Brien Rd/Wirraglen Rd intersection.
  2. Water 
    1. modelling required to demonstrate that acceptable water pressure can be achieved
  3. Sewerage
    1. The TRC is uncertain about the timeframe for the installation of the Wirraglen pump station. Consequently,
    2. they are requesting the applicant submit an alternative arrangement for the wastewater generated by the development.
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Revised development application submitted to Council. January 2018.

On January 31, a revised development application (DA) was submitted to the TRC for the Reis Rd block (TRC application reference: RAL/2017/4108). This revision addressed a number of issues raised by the TRC planners after their review of the original submission in September 2017. You can have a look at the original DA here.

You can read the issues for which the TRC requested additional information here (TRC information request Sept17).

There are a number of documents associated with the January 2018 submission. These are all available from the TRC PD Online facility.

Click on the document titles below to access pdfs of some of the key documents.

Info request response Jan 2018 (response to the TRC information request of Sept17)

Ecological Impact Assessment

 Streetscape Planting Report

Proposed local centre layout plan Jan 2018

In addition to these documents, there are Engineering reports dealing with road networks, stormwater and sewerage.

You can access these document via the PD online portal (link). Select RAL/2017/4108. Click the “documents” arrow and the list of documents will display. If you have trouble accessing the forms, phone or email the TRC – or ring/email the planner responsible for this DA (Nikki Morrison).

 

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Are Highfields’ iconic trees less valuable than Toowoomba city’s iconic trees?

Campbell St, east Toowoomba

Hume St, east Toowoomba

Driving around east Toowoomba brings into stark focus the contrast between the way the TRC protects the iconic trees in these neighbourhoods, and how little value they place on Highfields’ iconic trees.

In east Toowoomba, roads and footpaths, cars and pedestrians work around these 100+ year old trees because of the contribution they make to the character of these streets and neighbourhoods. They are not only visually pleasing, they shade the road and footpaths, keeping them cool, and provide shelter for some wildlife. The services they provide enrich the lives of those who live amongst them.

When it comes to the iconic trees in Highfields, the attitude of the TRC is very different. Our equally old and magnificent gum trees are removed from our neighbourhoods at the rate of hundreds a year. The ‘unique character’ of Highfields is inextricably linked to these trees. However, the TRC does not give them the same consideration it gives the character trees in east Toowoomba. They continue to be cut down and mulched in new estates, roadsides and parks.

Highfields North estate. 2017.

New estates in Highfields are a sea of roofs and bitumen. In the case of Kalimna Park estate, nearly 10 years after this was developed there are few trees that are big enough to shade roofs or footpaths.No attempt is made to preserve existing trees by placing them in the parks during the planning phase. The simplest and cheapest way to develop land is to clear every possible impediment to the installation of roads and services.

The same estate designs are repeated over and over again. There is no innovative town planning to provide variety and interest in the neighbourhoods. Again, whatever is easiest and most profitable for the developer.

Looking south east from Reis Road over the older Highfields developments.

In contrast, the ethos that existed when the older parts of Highfields were developed meant that mature trees were retained on blocks when they were subdivided. There was room for house and trees. The bigger blocks butted up together providing large combined areas in which stands of mature trees could be maintained.

As development moves closer to Klein Creek and the escarpment, and into the more heavily treed blocks, the impact of this scorched earth style development will be dramatic – if it is allowed to continue. In the older parts of Highfields, the trees are not on the roadsides, they are on private land. In the areas that will be developed in the future, the roadside reserves are the only places that large trees have any chance of being retained. The road side reserves are managed by the TRC, and should be managed in the interests of the community, not the developers.

When the roadside vegetation is cleared along with the the land to be subdivided on Reis Rd, Barracks Rd, Cabarlah Park Road, Cronin Road and the like, there won’t even be a veneer of these iconic Highfields trees along the roads to break up the sheer starkness of the developments. The scale of the habitat loss and connectivity across Highfields will devastate the wildlife populations.

The clear felling will extend over hundreds of hectares between Reis Road, Meringandan Road and the New England Highway (see map).

We demand better planning from the TRC now, before the Highfields’ character is irretrievably lost.

Land earmarked for housing developments in NE Highfields.

 

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A practical guide to Opposing a Development Application: the Caxton Legal Centre

(click on the image below to go to the website and read the full document).

The Reis/Kuhls/Barracks Rd development application that is currently with the TRC for review, is deemed code-assessable. As this guide points out, it doesn’t preclude individuals from providing information to the TRC that may inform the review of the application.

 

“Although the community has no formal rights to make submissions or appeal approvals of developments that are not impact assessable, an informal submission can be made to the relevant assessment manager and referral agencies. Although this does not give any rights to appeal the decision, it at least makes it possible for the public’s views to be considered.”

 

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Sign the petition to send a clear message to the TRC about how we want Highfields to grow.

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The latest Development Application – Reis, Barracks & Kuhls Rd

This is a copy of a letter prepared to alert residents immediately adjacent to the area affected by this proposal that the DA had been lodged. It outlines some of the major impacts the development will have on them, and Highfields more broadly, if it were to proceed as proposed.

21 August 2017

DEVELOPMENT APPLICATION FOR LAND ALONG REIS, BARRACKS AND KUHLS ROAD HAS BEEN LODGED WITH COUNCIL

Dear Reis Road resident/neighbour,

You may be aware that Clive Berghofer has purchased the parcels of land bounded by Reis, Barracks and Kuhls Rds, and the parcel between Kuhls Rd, Reis and the New England Highway (fronting Reis Road).

On 8 August, a development application was lodged with the Toowoomba Regional Council for the reconfiguration of the block between Reis Rd, Barracks Rd and Kuhls Rd into 48 blocks. This is the first 2 stages of a multi-stage development that will ultimately be comprised of 220 house blocks.

You can access the full application at the TRC website via their PD Online facility. The application reference number is RAL/2017/4108. You can also search by applications submitted in the last month, and it is on about page 5, with reference number and Reis Rd in the description.

Whilst the development of these tacts of farmland is inevitable, the proposal, if it proceeds unchallenged will change massively the landscape, the appearance of Reis and Barracks Roads and increase even more the traffic volumes on Reis Road.

Today I rang the TRC to ask to speak with a town planner about my concerns. I was told that the application is “code assessable”, and if it is found to be compliant, it will simply be approved. There is no opportunity for public comment/objection. Our only option is to make a lot of noise. To get the attention of the TRC councillors, the rest of the Highfields community and the local media. It is up to us to work hard to get some consideration for the environment, our lifestyle and our neighbourhood amenity in the approval process.

 I have attached some of the key pages from the application to this letter. All are available for download at the PD Online site (see above).

Some of the key impacts identified in the proposal are as follows:

  1. Reis Rd will be widened to a 25m road reserve, requiring clearing of all the vegetation along the eastern side and future resumption of the southern side (where your houses are) [Appendix C, p6]The loss of these hundreds of large trees will have a devastating impact on the amenity of the Reis Rd – Barracks Rd neighbourhood, for both the people and the wildlife. The widening of the road will increase the speed and volume of traffic, further eroding our quality of life, the safety of those who travel by bike or foot, and of the wildlife.
  2. Removal of all the vegetation along Barracks Rd from the northern end to Kuhls Rd to allow for sewerage, a bitumen road and driveways from the development.The 2013 Local Plan (endorsed by TRC) suggests that Reis Rd have “ ‘country boulevard’ treatment – providing great amenity, shade and shelter”. Indicating that main entries to Highfields (Reis, Cawdor, Highfields Roads) should reinforce the rural aesthetic of the locality. These aspirations are NOT represented in any way in this proposal.
  3. There are no plans for a park in the development, which means that all the trees will be cleared from this block [Appendix B – Indicative Master Plan].
  4. All stormwater from the development will be piped directly into Klein Ck (at the end of Barracks Rd) [Appendix C, p7]. Although required stormwater modelling in the application shows clearly that a bioretention basis is required to reduce the pollutants and sediment that might otherwise enter the creek [Appendix C, p8-12] – the developer proposes a voluntary financial contribution of $374,000 in lieu of the retention basin.

These increased stormwater from the development (impervious roofs and roads covering a large proportion of the land), if piped directly into Klein Ck, will now meet the water being piped from the Avenues onto Reis Rd in Klein Creek. The impact on the creek in terms of erosion, pollution and impact on properties downstream has not been considered in this proposal.

In general, this development application is inconsistent with the TRC’s vision of the “unique character of Highfields” – characterised by “the natural beauty of bushland…” (Vision promoted in both the Highfields, Meringandan, Merigandan West local plan 2013, and the Highfields Masterplan 2017).

If “character trees” cannot be removed from busy roads in east Toowoomba (Hume, Bridge, Mary etc) which all carry far more traffic than Reis Rd – why can’t the Highfields “character trees” be retained? I for one would have no objection to the traffic moving more slowly along what will be a heavily populated residential street (despite its classification as a Distributor road).

Extract from RAL/2017/4108

Extract from RAL/2017/4108

Extract from RAL/2017/4108

Extract from RAL/2017/4108

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