Kingborough Councillors, acting as a Planning Authority, have farcically been forced to refuse Kingborough Council's own development at 25A Osborne Esplanade.

There is rightly a huge amount of frustration and anger at that decision from the broader Kingborough community, but this piece is to explain that the problems aren’t so much with the Planning Authority’s decision, but with what happened before it got there.

HISTORY

When I was elected in 2014 I said my main objective was to get the Kingston Beach Surf Life Saving Club (KBSLSC) Built at 25A Osborne Esplanade.  It was essentially the reason I decided to run.  Like so many others I couldn’t believe the site was such a disgrace and nothing appeared to be happening.

By the time I was elected, there was an expression of interest process underway for the site and Council was deciding which of the three proposals it had received that it wanted to accept.

The end decision Council took was to put two of the three expressions of interest together.  The first was the Kingston Beach Surf Life Saving Club and the second was a business group called Osborne Esplanade Investments (OEI).  This group included the highly respected hospitality team behind Capital, Burger Haus and Pancho Villa in North Hobart.

This decision to do this in late 2015 took into account a range of factors including:

  • Minimising financial outlay for ratepayers;
  • Ensuring a new public toilet was constructed as part of any development;
  • Ensuring the new development added positively to the Kingston Beach area; and
  • Could conceivably be developed within Council’s planning scheme

The reason I wanted to include the restaurant development to be included was that I felt that the site needed be for everyone.  If it was just for the KBSLSC it could be restricted to members only and I really believe that further commercial activity is going to be inevitable to keep up with growing demand.  OEI offered a proven, quality team both in the construction and hospitality side of the project.

Further to this, after an unsolicited offer from the owner of 24 Osborne Esplanade (the northern neighbour) Council acquired a portion of that property to allow for rear access to 25 Osborne Esplanade via Albert Street.  The sale amount was decided in closed session, but it was quite a lot of money.

CONSULTATION

The development application was worked on over the following 18 months.  Under the proposed arrangements, Council was to maintain ownership of the land, would own the building and OEI would own a small strata title where the restaurant was to be on the bottom floor, in exchange for them funding and building the public toilets on the side of the building.  KBSLSC would lease the building off Council for almost nothing.

During two formal public consultation periods we saw a large number of objections from the Kingston Beach community.  Residents of Albert Street would not accept any increase in traffic along their street, residents of Osborne Esplanade were concerned about noise, the Kingston Beach Community Association was concerned about stormwater (among other things), two local businesses objected on the basis of parking and competition and one objector even stated that she thought the surf lifesaving club flags on the beach were ugly.  People also, all of a sudden, decided that the gum tree in front of the old toilet block needed to be preserved at all costs. 

The wider Kingborough community is rightly livid that this project hasn’t been approved.  KBSLSC will be extremely disappointed, and I doubt we’ll ever see the talented OEI team try and do business in Kingborough again.

I have very limited sympathy for any of the objections.  Kingston Beach can’t stay the same forever.  It’s one of Hobart’s safest and most popular beaches.  It can’t and shouldn’t remain a quaint little underdeveloped relic. 

It also upsets me deeply that so many people aren’t prepared to give up anything personally for the what is a clear community asset.  I actually live on Osborne Esplanade too, and the development may have negatively impacted me in a minor way, but I could still see that the project was going to give so much to the broader community through the outstanding work that the KBSLSC does, enhanced hospitality options and some new toilets and changeroom facilities.

A real but largely unnoticed advantage of the KBSLSC has been the collelation between its arrival some 15 years ago and the elimination of a lot of the antisocial behaviour that used to occur at Kingston Beach over summer.  KBSLC is teaching stong values and giving young people a real focus over summer.

Is it a particularly Tasmanian thing to not want to see any change?  To think that your small, underdeveloped street should never change and that you have a right to limit traffic on it forever?

THE APPLICATION

After all of the consultation, passionate debate that lasted almost a year, the Development Application finally made it to Planning Authority meeting. 

The Application was basically un-approvable based on the officer’s recommendation.  It was fatally noncompliant in a number of areas despite the fact it was Council itself that helped put it together.  Even if Council had approved it, the objectors would have likely overturned the decision in the Planning Tribunal.

HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

So how did that happen?

That’s what I want to find out.  Is there a prospect of building a Surf Life Saving Club on this site at all?  If not, why weren't we told in 2015 that we couldn’t do what we wanted to do?  How did it get this far?

I will be placing a notice of motion on the agenda that seeks a report outlining these issues.  We need to put in place a viable new plan as quickly as possible.