JEWEL BARGARA: New artists impressions of a proposed high rise on the Bargara esplanade have been released as part of the developer's response to further information requested by Bundaberg Regional Council.
JEWEL BARGARA: New artists impressions of a proposed high rise on the Bargara esplanade have been released as part of the developer's response to further information requested by Bundaberg Regional Council. Contributed

Development in breach of town plan, which council allowed

DESPITE having more storeys than any other building in Bargara, the proposed Jewel development, if passed, would not be the only structure in breach of town plans the Bundaberg Regional Council has ever approved in the small township.

Also one of the most controversial developments of its time, the multi-storey Bargara Golf Club redevelopment was approved by the council in 2009 after developer CABE forked out $60 million for it two years earlier.

Originally slated for 119 apartments, a bar/dining area, conference facilities, a day spa and other commercial facilities, the approved development never actually went ahead.

However, if it had been built, the structure would have come in several metres and at least one storey higher than the town plan allows, setting an interesting precedent for the pro and anti-high-rise turmoil the township currently finds itself in.

The nine-storey high-rise has been shrouded in controversy since developer Esplanade Jewel Pty Ltd submitted its application to the council in February.

The biggest concerns among residents opposed to the Burkett St, See St and Esplanade development include light spillage and the effect it may have on nesting sea turtles, excess noise and shadowing, its impact on the community and the development's height - which currently stands four storeys above what the Bundaberg Regional Council Planning Scheme 2015 allows.

Eager to set the record straight when in came to the Jewel, Bundaberg commercial property agent Grant Davies told the NewsMail some of the concerns over the development were misguided and were having far greater repercussions than residents realised.

"There are people from all over the place, nationally and internationally, looking at all the negative stuff a few are making of this and not getting a good feeling about investing in our region," he said.

"This is not good for those interested in growth in their property values or jobs for their kids."

When plans for the Bargara Gold Club redevelopment first circulated in 2007, almost 97 per cent of the club's members supported the proposal.

Two years later when approval was given the NewsMail reported the project had received less than 10 objections and 190 letters of support.

One of its strongest backers was councillor Greg Barnes, who pushed for the council to approve the six-storey complex despite its height - which was in breach of the Burnett Shire Council plan.

"The plans are there and that's what we stick by," Cr Barnes said after the redevelopment was approved under the Woongarra Shire scheme, which, the development and planning committee at the time said developers could still appeal to, more than 10 years after the previous council had ceased to exist.

"But when you get something of this nature, of this magnitude, and there is this much community benefit at stake it would be irresponsible to stand in the way."

It was said, at the time of its approval, that the $60 million redevelopment was destined to save the then-struggling club from financial ruin.

But looking back, Mr Davies said he was confused but how differently the current development application before the council was being treated compared to the CABE application from almost 10 years earlier

"(The Bargara Golf Club redevelopment) was approved by a motion put forward by Greg Barnes at a height greater than the Jewel. So why the problem now with this one?" he said.

At last week's briefing meeting Cr Barnes said he may have a perceived conflict of interest when it came to the nine-storey building, despite remaining in the room.

This came after Bill Trevor and Scott Rowleson excused themselves from the discussions in an effort to be as transparent as possible.

The pair were among a council delegation to China where they had meetings and dinner functions with Jewel developer Sheng Wei.

The matter is listed for a decision at the council's ordinary meeting today, scheduled for 10am at Gin Gin.

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