Noosa Council has won an historic court victory against a developer claiming nearly 53-million dollars in compensation over the council’s 1997 Strategic Plan.
In a case watched closely by councils far and wide, the Planning and Environment Court last week dismissed the claim and found in favour of Noosa Council.
While the developer R.F. Thompson can still appeal the judgement, Mayor Noel Playford says the council and ratepayers will see the victory as an important one, removing the biggest and last of the compensation claims from that period.
Back in 1997, the developer wanted to build about 1287 units in a 40-hectare parcel in Settler’s Cove, an application Mr Playford described at the time as “sardine City”. It was later reduced to 426 units and 33 house lots.
The mayor said “We were confident that the 1997 plan was a balanced one for our whole community, and now the court, in this marathon case, has comprehensively agreed with us.”
In 2000 RF Thompson made a claim for what’s known as ‘injurious affection’, demanding 34.6 million dollars compensation after the adoption of the Strategic Plan. This later increased to nearly 53-million dollars.
The case took 14 years to make its way to judgement, defended by the old Noosa Council, then the amalgamated Sunshine Coast Council, and finally by the new Noosa Council.
The former Noosa Council fought off a series of similar compensation claims that amounted to a total of 94-million dollars back in 2001. By the time of amalgamation, the Thompson case was the only one still outstanding.
Such is the 14 year history of this marathon case that Judge Robin had to return from retirement to deliver his 222-page judgement, while Noel Playford was back in the mayor’s seat of a restored Noosa Council, and quietly pleased that local planning had been successfully defended.
He said today “we knew when this started that we may have to back our planning laws with the courage of our convictions, and that’s what we did. There will be times in the future when the council has to fight hard again to retain our balanced view of planning. The alternative” – he said – “is ‘anything goes’, and that’s not what our community wants.”