Council to seek city planning expert

QUEANBEYAN City Council will soon bolster its CBD upgrade plans by bringing an external property development consultant with town planning experience into the city planning fold.

Counsellors passed a resolution last week to seek out expressions of interest for the new consulting role following criticism from the Queanbeyan Business Chamber that Council's CBD master plan lacked vision and detail.

The Business Chamber has recently launched its own push into the world of Queanbeyan CBD planning in the form of a town planning competition, to be judged by an independent panel of planning and architecture experts later this year.

With the two groups divided on how best to improve the CBD, Counsellors took control at last Thursday's meeting by supporting deputy mayor Peter Bray's recommendation to seek an external consultant who could operate in both the property development and town planning fields, signalling a longer-term view of CBD upgrades. Cr Bray's recommendation also specified that the successful applicant "consult with the Queanbeyan Business Chamber and other stake holders in regard to development ideas and opportunities."

Crs Sue Whelan and Toni McLennan both spoke in support of the move, both saying Council should occupy the "driver's seat" of CBD development.

Business Chamber vice president and local hotelier Steve Bartlett is also calling it a win for the Business Chamber, particularly the requirement for a consultant to have town planning experience. He said that would ensure a more comprehensive look at how the CBD could be used for a mix of commercial, retail, residential and community uses rather than focusing on "short-term land value."

"A town planner will take all of that into account," Mr Bartlett said. "And once you've got your big picture design sorted out, then you can go towards filling in the actual development.

"That's what we've been on about the whole way through, so we're very happy that they're on this path."

While Mr Bartlett said he'd "like to think we've made a contribution to Council's path on this matter," Mayor Tim Overall said the new Council resolution dated back before the Chamber's city push.

"There is no relationship," Cr Overall said. "We have been exploring development opportunities and assessing concept proposals from property development entities in regard to certain council car parks for some years, however the GFC frustrated this process.

"In late 2012 the Council unanimously resolved to give consideration to calling Expressions of Interest for commercial and residential development. With the progress of Googong and the planned development of South Tralee/South Jerrabomberra, we anticipate a renewed interest in the Queanbeyan CBD from the property development and construction sector," he said.

Council general manager Gary Chapman said the property consultant would bring a network of industry contacts as well as independent advice to Council's planning team.

"It is believed that this project can offer up a one-off generational change to the CBD and council wants on-board the necessary expertise in the project team with that of council staff that will take the CBD project forward," he said.

Meanwhile, Business Chamber president and Queanbeyan counsellor Jamie Cregan also welcomed the consultative approach specified in Cr Bray's motion.

"I think clarifying that the property consultant has town planning and development experience is a good move," he said.

"I'm quite happy that the Business Chamber is recognised and being included as a voice for business in Queanbeyan. I think it's essential that we're able to collectively put our input into something like this."

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