Moreton Bay development delayed after government stoush drags out application approval over years

Moreton Bay development delayed after government stoush drags out application approval over years
  • PublishedJanuary 11, 2024

It was supposed to be the multi-million-dollar makeover of a car sales yard to revitalise a depressed CBD and help reduce traffic, just north of Brisbane.

Approved for intensive development by the local council, the two-acre property was to host everything from an indoor sport and recreation centre to high-rise accommodation, an underground carpark and a giant mural featuring the names of fallen ANZACs.

People would be able to “live, work and play near their residences”, a Moreton Bay Regional Council spokesperson said after a developer purchased the Petrie property about 40km north of Brisbane for $12 million and submitted development plans.

But traffic — one of the issues that the project was supposed to address — has instead been its undoing.

The state government, which is involved in overseeing the development via a Priority Development Area (PDA) declaration, has refused to sign off on the project citing safety issues associated with traffic and access to the site.

The result has left the site vacant for years and hosting only a forest of weeds, unsightly security fencing and dilapidated buildings that have become a haunt for graffitists, arsonists and vandals, to the frustration of locals.

a gutted building behind a cyclone fence
The state government has refused to sign off on the project, citing safety issues associated with traffic and access to the site.(ABC News)

The initial developer, Longfield Land Company — which submitted the original concept to the council in 2019 — has folded, allegedly owing unsecured creditors about $1.5 million, according to a liquidator’s report.

‘It’s bloody ridiculous’

The delay has baffled and infuriated Petrie business owners who have almost given up waiting for an economic boost from the proposed development.

“It’s been debilitating for everyone in the area and there’s been youngsters camping and starting fires and even worse,” said Rowell Walton, who manages an adjacent property.

“It’s bloody ridiculous. The state government needs to come in over the top and sort it out.”

The concept dates back to 2015 when the Alan Sutherland-led Moreton Bay Regional Council moved to draw up a special development precinct around a proposed new local university campus, known as The Mill.

In September 2016, then deputy premier Jackie Trad, at council’s request, declared the precinct a PDA – a status that recognises parcels of land that, when developed, will “deliver significant benefits to the community”.

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Under a PDA, the state government’s Economic Development Queensland (EDQ) is supposed to work with local government to plan, assess and guide development in the area.

One property that council included within The Mill PDA zone was an old car yard at 1059 Anzac Avenue, which was owned by local businesswoman Marlene Newcombe via her private company Colbury.

The car yard was known for hosting a Village Motors dealership.

Under the PDA plans, the car yard was given the classification as a “key site” and designated as suitable for intensive development including an unlimited building height.

artist's impression showing a supermarket and anzac memorial
An artist’s impression, made for the development assessment report.(Supplied: Project Urban)

This “key site” was supposed to host “a signature development with an interesting and diverse range of uses and activities”, the council’s website stated.

In 2018, local developer Longfield Land Company expressed an interest in the property and began pre-lodgement meetings with council to discuss plans.

According to Longfield’s planning documents, it was in these pre-lodgement meetings that council encouraged a diverse range of uses, including “a bar, food and drink, indoor sport and recreation, multiple dwellings, office rooming accommodation”.

At a second pre-lodgement meeting in August 2018 council again sought a more intense development on the block, particularly in regards to the northern part of the site.

An amended design was then submitted, which included additional building height, a separate student accommodation building, an office building and an “activated ground level that included a public plaza”, multiple individual retail shop tenancies, a supermarket and a tavern, according to Longfield’s planning assessment report for the project.

In 2019, less than a year later, an entity associated with Longfield’s director Jon Strofield purchased the property for about $12 million from Ms Newcombe’s Colbury company, according to RP data sales records.

Later that year, a council spokesperson said Longfield’s proposed development would provide “a revitalised Petrie CBD area with a variety and mix of land use types” meaning “people can live, work and play near their residence”. 

“This will reduce car demand and promote alternative modes of transport,” the spokesperson said.

‘Changes not feasible’

However, in later years as the development progressed through planning approval stages, traffic impacts on the major thoroughfare of Anzac Avenue became an issue, including a proposed four-way intersection.

Longfield director Jon Strofield last year told the ABC that: “The whole delay was actually the inability to get access to the Anzac Avenue site”.

“So essentially the Queensland Government had an issue with the volume of traffic just for the network of roads,” he said.

Mr Strofield said the changes sought by the transport department were not feasible due to the loss of land.

In December, Moreton By Regional Council said it had been unable to finalise the assessment or progress the development application without the EDQ unit confirming that the state interests were appropriately considered and addressed.

A council spokeswoman said the EDQ had outlined further issues that needed to be addressed.

This essentially required the applicant to significantly scale back the development due to traffic and safety concerns associated with the state-controlled road Anzac Avenue, according to the spokesperson.

“Council has communicated to EDQ that the aspirations and intent for key site B, in line with the development scheme supporting The Mill PDA, may not be possible if the issues relating to the state road network, raised by the Department [of] Transport and Main Roads cannot be managed,” they said.

artiost's impression of apartment and shopping development 'the mill'
The site was supposed to host “a signature development with an interesting and diverse range of uses and activities”, the council’s website stated.(Supplied: Project Urban)

Council ‘really disappointed’

Mayor Peter Flannery said he was disappointed with the state government’s handling of the situation.

“If there were concerns about the site’s intensification then they should have been raised during the state government’s checks before it approved the Priority Development Area for the precinct,” he said.

“It really disappoints me that there seems to have been a lack of support by the state agencies to find a suitable solution for this site to be developed under the PDA,” he said.

But the transport department said EDQ could not approve the development as the applicant had not adequately addressed the relevant state transport interests.

profile photo of a man standing in a garden
Moreton Bay mayor Peter Flannery said he was disappointed with the state government’s handling of the situation.(ABC News: Lucas Hill)

“The applicant’s proposed four-way intersection is not supported due to the safety and operational efficiency impacts to the state-controlled road,” a spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said Department of Transport and Main Roads (DTMR) remained committed to working collaboratively with the council and EDQ to finding a safe access solution to the site.

Longfield Land Company went into liquidation in 2023, but prior to this other companies took over the application.

In an August 2023 report submitted to the Australian Security and Investment Commission (ASIC), the liquidator revealed the director reported that the company “failed due to its inability to realise development profits due to market conditions and construction pricing”.

Mr Strofield, who late last year was still associated with the project, said he could not say when construction on the site would start as he was seeking other funding for a scaled-down version of the development.

“I’m assisting my financier to come up with a solution,” he said.

Mr Strofield said he was working to get something going on the site that could cover the financier of the development’s costs.

He said the development, as initially proposed, had been significantly scaled down.

“They were now proposing to undertake a refurbishment of the existing structures,” he said.

“It’s essentially just a refurbishment and we are proposing a food outlet, a small supermarket and some allied health and wellness stuff,” he said.

Mr Strofield declined to comment on Longfield Land Company’s liquidation.

A liquidator’s report filed to the ASIC for Longfield Land Company last year stated unsecured creditors were owed a total of approximately $1.5 million by the company.


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