Transit-oriented development (TOD) is a type of urban development designed to maximize the amount of residential, business and leisure space within walking distance of public transport. The aim is to reduce reliance on private cars and promote sustainable urban growth. Those principles are easy to get behind; as we’ve written previously it makes a lot more sense then surrounding public transport nodes with vast hot expanses of asphalt carparking.
But it shouldn’t just be about adding new residences and businesses. Developing land around public transport nodes should have the goal to increase the ease with which people already living and working in the surrounding area can access that public transport, and to improve walking and cycling connections. We’ve previously highlighted examples around Brisbane where we see opportunities that have gone begging – for example at Albion and Lutwyche. There seems to be a lack of planning overview which would consider individual developments in the context of a greater active travel network. This is not assisted by lack of clarity about who’s responsible for what; Council is generally responsible for planning approvals (except in certain circumstances), while State Government usually owns and controls the land around stations – sometimes via Queensland Rail and sometimes via TMR and sometimes via the Department of State Development…
Which brings us to Buranda (technically in the suburb of Woolloongabba) and the seemingly small matter of a ramp which once connected from Logan Road to Gillingham St behind Buranda Station. This ramp was once a useful cut-through to avoid the active-transport wasteland that is the Stones Corner roundabout at the junction of Logan Rd, O’Keefe St, and Old Cleveland Rd.
As can be seen from Google Streetview, the ramp to the station from the end of Gillingham St was there in 2015, but it has since been removed, and access at this point is now via stairs or a long detour to the station platform.
From Logan Road, the ramp still exists, and is marked “QR only” suggesting that it is owned by Queensland Rail.
We know that Queensland Rail are currently planning a station upgrade at Buranda, which should improve access to the platforms via lifts, but there is really no information available at this stage about what access from Logan Road or Gillingham St will look like. In fact, we’ve heard a rumour that the current access from Logan Road—which includes a ramp up to the central platform—might be removed. We’ve sought further information from Queensland Rail, but have been told the project is still in the initial planning phase, and that there is more information in the artists’ impression. (There isn’t).
We were hoping that the next stage of the so-called transit-oriented development at Buranda* might result in an improved connection from Logan Rd to the station and to Gillingham St, but what we uncovered via Council’s online Planning and Development System PDOnline and CityPlan interactive map has left us really concerned.
Rather than providing improved access between Logan Rd and Gillingham St, the planned development looks like it will be building over the site of the existing ramp.
But how can that be, if—as we had assumed—the land belongs to Queensland Rail??
Certainly, according to the Brisbane City Plan, the land is zoned for “Special Purpose Transport Infrastructure” like the rest of the rail corridor.
So who does own the piece of land marked in the City Plan as 223G Logan Rd, Woolloongabba or Lot 2 on SP246246. Is it a public asset? If so, how can it be part of a private development application??
We know that sometimes a development is proposed which includes a parcel of public land that will then be sold to the developer if the application is approved (aside: how is the price determined??). But we were under the impression the development application required the land-holder’s consent. This site—or anything corresponding to it—wasn’t noted in the landowner’s consent for the initial development application lodged in 2009, in the substantially modified 2014 application, or in the landowner’s consent for the latest “permissible change” application lodged in June 2016. That change application was lodged by the party we understand to be the current owner of the majority of land bounded by O’Keefe St, Logan Rd, Gillingham St, and the rail line – Singapore-based Wee Hur Pty Ltd.
Trawling through PDOnline is challenging because the application shape-shifts across different application numbers, and each application refers to plans and conditions submitted or approved previously, but each has dozens of documents with unhelpful titles making it incredibly difficult to determine what is that latest plan submitted, and what has actually been approved. But we can’t find any mention of Lot 2 on SP246246. We can only assume by process of elimination that it is the lot variously referred to as “Part of 188 Logan Rd, Woolloongabba” (according to the CityPlan interactive map, 188 Logan Rd refers to Buranda Station), or L14 SP119264, and elsewhere again as Lot 40 on SP229941.
If we’re correct in assuming the site of the “QR Only” ramp is “Part of Lot 40 SP229941” then according to a document lodged in December 2014 it was at that time owned by the Department of Transport and Main Roads, rather than Queensland Rail as we had assumed. But still, the Queensland State Government.
So what business does the State Government having selling-off (or otherwise transferring) public land to a private developer if that land could be a valuable link in the active transport network? Elsewhere the government (and Council) are spending millions of dollars of public money purchasing land to enable transport connections (ie. roads, and in some cases rail lines).
Has the transfer happened already, and if so what was the price? Is that money being reinvested into other active transport infrastructure in the area??
Perhaps the future of that one particular lot doesn’t matter if the proposed development provides alternative links between Gillingham St and Logan Rd and accessible connections to Buranda Station? But what are the details of the plans for Area A2? Based on what has been built on Area A1 so far, we have no confidence at all that the development will improve cycling connections. Far from it.
The plans—such as we can find—indicate a surprising about of vehicle access and car-parking for a transit-oriented development. And what’s the future for the current signalised pedestrian crossing on Logan Road for people crossing to Buranda State School on Crowley St if there’s to be a new signalised intersection at Martin St?
While delving into PDOnline, we uncovered a statement of the Design Principles for the TOD, circa 2013. The purpose includes to “encourage the use of public transport, walking and bicycles, rather than cars, for personal transport…”
There are further details listed under Performance Criteria:
Development creates an integrated and continuous pedestrian and cyclist network that facilitates logical and direct access to public footpaths, public transport facilities and public open spaces. Cross-block links have a strong street presence that signifies that they are publicly accessible.
Our assessment of the plans so far are that they are contrary to the design principles and fail to meet the performance criteria. But given the varying roles of Council, Queensland Rail, and TMR, who is ultimately responsible, and who can step in to fix it?
*Footnote: there are other issues with the development at Buranda which we haven’t focused on here, but you can check out The Better Buranda Project on Facebook for more on the concerns of the local community).