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Nod for Waterfront Brisbane project was a judgement call, council says

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Brisbane City Council has defended its approval of a $2.1bn redevelopment of the Eagle Street Pier site, lashing critics of the decision.

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The Dexus group plans to demolish the 30-year-old pier buildings and construct two towers of 49 storeys and 43 storeys. Work on the massive mixed-use development, known as Waterfront Brisbane, is due to begin next year, with the first tower due to be standing by 2026.

While the Palaszczuk government has embraced the project, describing it as a form of economic stimulus, it has its detractors. The most outspoken critics own property next door, in the Harry Seidler-designed Riparian Plaza building, and include high-flying businesswoman Sarina Russo.

The Waterfront Brisbane development application was approved in December and announced by Dexus and the Brisbane City Council in a joint media release (the council will fund a new Riverwalk to be delivered by Dexus as part of the project).

But lawyers for Riverside Development Pty Ltd, which owns Riparian Plaza, have since gone to the Planning and Environment Court in a bid to have the approvals torn up. If successful, the move would send Dexus back to the drawing board and at the very least delay the project.

The council has now had its say. In documents filed in the court, the council accused Riverside of reading its development decision notice “with an eye attuned for the perception of error”.

Questioning whether the appeal had any standing, the council argued “compliance with provisions of the planning scheme is an evaluative judgement and is a matter about which reasonable minds may differ”.

“In any event, the findings of compliance with the planning scheme and use of the conditions power was not unreasonable in the legal sense and otherwise discloses no reviewable legal error,” council said.

The council rejected Riverside’s claim that it was wrong to consider the project as a code assessable development and not an impact assessable development that would have required closer scrutiny and more community consultation.

Riverside insists the development would not comply with City Centre Neighbourhood Plan Code, the Flood Overlay Code, the Waterway Corridor Overlay Code, the Coastal Hazard Overlay Code, the Transport, Access, Parking and Servicing Code, and the Bicycle Network Overlay Code. It would also directly impact on Riparian Plaza.

The case is set down for another review in June.

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