Residents urged to ask questions to get answers

Brighton councillor Phil Owen is urging residents to ask questions. He says if residents in the Municipality have a question about a particular subject or what is going on in their neighbourhood, they should ask the question of their elected officials

By PHIL OWEN*

WHY don’t I have a footpath? 

This is a question I often receive in my capacity as a Brighton councillor and the answer is one that many ratepayers have difficulty accepting.  

When Old Beach was first subdivided in the 1960s for example, there were next to no subdivision requirements other than for a gravel road. Blocks were cheap but came without reticulated water, footpaths, sewer, stormwater, kerbs or gutters.

Some houses began to be built on the Old Beach blocks and by the 1980s when no more than 20 houses had been built, the septic tanks became a major problem.  

Cr Phil Owen

Council had a decision to make. Either no more houses or enter into a 50/50 cost-sharing arrangement with block owners to provide reticulated water, sewer and stormwater. To service the then Old Beach area 30 years ago cost $10,000 a block with owners contributing $5000 each and Council borrowing the other $5000. 

Thankfully, subdivision requirements have changed and today, the developer is required to provide infrastructure to a minimum standard of subdivision for the land in the zone being developed or subdivided. 

Zones in the Brighton Planning Scheme include residential, rural living, rural, agriculture, business, commercial and more. Each of these has levels of differing requirements in so far as the scheme is concerned and include minimum standards for the provision of kerbs, channel, sewer, water, fire protection, electricity (underground/poles and wires), telecommunications to mention some. Other factors might include area plans relating to local factors, size and location of the land in question. 

A prime example is the Tivoli Green development opposite Compton Downs. The developer came to Council with a proposal for a subdivision that had more of a rural feel, larger-sized residential blocks and incorporating Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) which affords residents more land area and has some benefits for the environment. For example, WSUD allows the use of swale drains to handle, slow down and filter rainwater into catchments that is, capturing roof water into on-site tanks for domestic garden use. WSUD avoids large first flushes of water into the drainage system immediately following rain. The trade-off with WSUD and other aspects of the Tivoli Green development, for example, was no footpaths, no kerb, no gutters and as the subdivision costs were less, the price the blocks sold for were less reflecting the lower development costs. 

The problem now is residents are asking for footpaths, capital and ongoing maintenance expense Council never anticipated or budgeted for when the subdivision was created. Council officers will examine and assess each request for new capital expenditure on its merit but are generally reluctant to provide additional public infrastructure unless public safety issues can be demonstrated. 

Several residential and rural residential developments in the Brighton Municipality do not have footpaths and some only have footpaths on one side of the street only, for a range of reasons. 

Be aware that in line with the requirements of the Local Government Act, Council plans and budgets for all of its new infrastructure and its maintenance and renewal under a 10-year-long term asset management plan. This plan ensures Council maximises the use of ratepayer funds by planning in a co-ordinated manner as well as predicting and assessing the condition of all assets to ensure works are carried out at optimal points in their life cycle. The plan also considers the requests and desires of the community. Council will be conducting a full update of its 10-year asset management plan during this financial year.

So remember, if you have an inquiry or concern then ask the question. 

*Phil Owen is a Brighton councillor and is a member of Council’s planning authority

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