Australia Brisbane suburb of Kangaroo Point a case study in high density development
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A push for Brisbane to avoid urban sprawl by boosting inner-city density is rapidly changing some of the city's oldest suburbs, sparking concerns heritage is being lost and infrastructure is not keeping pace.
Kangaroo Point is one such suburb, where residents fighting to slow the speedy rise of towering apartment blocks feel left out of the planning process as they watch their homes change for good.
Dozens of apartment tower applications have been lodged with Brisbane City Council in recent years, adding hundreds of apartments to the suburb and replacing older timber or fibro homes along the way.
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In 2016 the Australian Bureau of Statistics Census predicted Kangaroo Point's population of 8,800 would grow to 10,258 by 2021 and 14,039 by 2041, with a median age of 35 and a relatively high population of people aged 65 or over.
The suburb is viewed primarily as an inner-city worker's home, allowing for a quick commute and easy access to entertainment precincts such as South Bank and Fortitude Valley.
Across 2020, Kangaroo Point had 698 one-bedroom apartment lodgements, 841 two-bedroom apartments, 38 three-bedroom houses and 19 four-bedroom houses.
Tin-and-timber versus glass towers
But as slick new towers rise, some residents have decried the loss of its rougher tin-and-timber heritage as a traditionally industrial worker's suburb, blaming a new neighbourhood plan that came into force last year.
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The neighbourhood plan, developed by the council with community input, allows for 15-storey apartment towers, up from 10 storeys. It came into affect in February last year.
In one instance, an 1880s-era timber cottage now stands dwarfed by a high-rise tower curving around it at the corner of Lambert and Castlebar Streets.
Brisbane City Council also recently approved the relocation of three pre-1911 timber cottages on Lambert Street, sitting in front of a controversial planned three-storey tower development.
The 10-storey, three-tower development with 200 apartments was approved by Brisbane City Council but a later application to lift the height to 15 storeys and have 300 apartments was rejected.
The rejection is now being appealed in the Planning and Environment Court.
Other significant heritage buildings are in poor condition, such as Lamb House, or Home, standing on the cliffs looking toward the city. The house is the subject of a lengthy and contentious debate after the council decided to sell it to reclaim thousands of dollars of unpaid rates.
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Another heritage house, Shafston House, was recently sold.
Back to the drawing board
Kangaroo Point resident Dr Ian Scott said the community wanted the council to go back to the start and re-do the peninsula's neighbourhood plan with a broader base of community input.
"We're not against development per se, but we're certainly against inappropriate city planning that really isn't city planning It's city cramming."
But the council's City Planning and Economic Development Committee chair Krista Adams said it was too early to determine if the neighbourhood plan was working as planned.
"Neighbourhood plans guide the growth of an area over an approximate 20-year period," she said.
"The Kangaroo Point Peninsular Neighbourhood Plan is 12 months old, so it is too early to tell."
Cr Adams said the council did not set targets for density or population growth, but Brisbane needed to meet a state-mandated target of 188,000 new dwellings, 94 per cent in "consolidation areas such as Kangaroo Point".
Dr Scott said the rapid rate of development was leaving residents living in a suburb full of construction noise, empty apartment blocks, and few amenities.
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"We're trying to put far too many developments in a very small area, particularly when recent developments that have been completed stand half-empty — or indeed completely empty," he said.
Retired social worker Rosemary Ness, who has lived in Kangaroo Point for years, said residents were not against development, but wanted "ethical" projects that suited the suburb.
"No one wants 15-storey apartment blocks erupting over the peninsula like acne on an adolescent's face."
Cr Adams said the council was "dedicated to balancing the needs of a growing community while preserving the history of Kangaroo Point".
Infrastructure and amenity needed
Despite its close proximity to the CBD, Kangaroo Point has limited amenity, with few cafes and a handful of pubs on the eastern side of the suburb off Main Street.
The closest supermarkets are in Spring Hill or East Brisbane, although an application from Woolworths is under assessment by Brisbane City Council.
It doesn't have a library, and a long-promised Riverwalk extension along the eastern side of the river has yet to eventuate.
Cr Adams said the council still had the Riverwalk listed in its long-term plan, but the Labor state government had made a $22 million election pledge to build missing Riverwalk connections.
A $190 million green bridge will connect the suburb to the CBD within two years, and a new underpass between the Story Bridge will improve pedestrian and cycling access.
The suburb falls into the East Brisbane State School catchment, and according to ABS data it only has one school-aged childcare service, no long day care centres, no kindergartens, and just two aged care facilities.
Greens councillor for the Gabba Ward Jonathan Sri, said residents were primarily concerned with the suburb's lack of infrastructure.
"Kangaroo Point is already one of the most densely populated suburbs in Queensland, but the lack of investment in new public parkland, public housing, pedestrian crossings, bike lanes and other community facilities is really starting to show," he said.
"I'm also hearing from lower-income Kangaroo Point residents who are frustrated that their cheaper homes are being knocked down and replaced with much more expensive apartments, forcing them out of their communities."
Cr Sri said it was "a question of balance" when it came to density and amenity.
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