Planning laws ignored
The Queensland Independent November 1999 By Stuart Brennan & Liam Fox
THE University of Queensland is under fire for beginning construction of its new biotechnology facility without town planning approval or a completed environmental impact assessment.
The seven-storey Institute of Molecular Biosciences, occupying 35,000 square metres in St Lucia, starts construction next month despite opposition from the Brisbane City Council and local residents.
But UQ Vice-Chancellor John Hay has dismissed criticisms, saying legislation establishing universities and the land on which they are situated defines the right of the institution to develop its land for its own purposes.
In a letter to a local resident protest group, Brisbane Lord Mayor Jim Soorley said he had received legal opinion that UQ should have to go through the normal planning practices and apply for council approval.
The letter said: "I think it is inappropriate for the University to consider planning issues on its own site and not consider the amenity issues for the surrounding residential area.
"Let me assure you I will be taking a hard line on this issue."
Residents have also criticised the lateness of an environmental impact assessment, which a public hearing of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works last week heard was not due to be completed for another month.
A spokesperson for the CSIRO, a joint partner in the building, told the hearing that "public consultation was not a specific component of the EIA".
The spokesperson, corporate property assistant general manager Trevor Moody, said all discharges from the facility including possible smokestack and chemical contaminants would fully comply with Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.
Residents held a demonstration at the site earlier in the day to highlight their concerns about the location of the building opposite a residential area at the corner of Carmody Road and Hawken Drive.
Residents Against Intensive Development (RAID) spokesperson Poh-Ling Tan told the parliamentary
committee residents were not against biotechnology but believed it was inappropriate to locate the facility so close to family homes.
She said the impact assessment should have been conducted long ago.
"This is unfair treatment of the community," she said.
"With this building all we will see is a precipice of stone."
At a public information session on October 6 residents said their greatest concern was the failure of the university to give residents a chance to have an input into the design process.
Other issues raised at the meeting included increased lighting, traffic and the sheer immensity of the facility.
"As far as we're concerned that [building] is Godzilla," one resident said.
"That's a very big project for the people that live in the area."
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