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Approval of Zaha Hadid Architects’ twin towers on Gold Coast deferred by up to a year

The City of Gold Coast Council has voted to defer its decision to approve two controversial 44-storey towers on the Southport Spit for up to a year.

The decision came after a mayoral minute was put forward to defer the Sunland Group project to a later date in order to allow time for the council to develop a masterplan for The Spit.

Council was due to vote on the development, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, on Tuesday, but the vote was moved to Thursday after mayor Tom Tate had to leave the meeting for another appointment.

City of Gold Coast planning officers recommended the council refuse a development permit for the 3.94-hectare Mariners Cove development.

The officers’ report outlined 14 reasons why the $600-million complex should not go ahead. The reasons for refusal of the development included conflicts regarding building heights, accommodation density, land reclamation and impact on traffic.

The development includes 370 apartments and 69 resort hotel suites housed in the twin towers, an art gallery and museum, an aquarium, retail and food spaces on the ground floor between the towers, 955 car parking spaces and a landscaped waterfront area.

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Chairman of Sunland Group, Soheil Abedian, said, “Sunland Group will consider all our options before making a decision.” Sunland Group did not wish to make any further comments.

Philip Follent, former Queensland government architect, inaugural city architect for the Gold Coast and current co-chair of the Australian Institute of Architects’ Gold Coast / Northern Rivers region, said the decision was problematic because it would be unlikely that a masterplan could be completed in 12 months’ time.

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Follent said the deferral the vote was an obstruction of proper planning process. The new City of Gold Coast City Plan commenced just over seven months ago, on 2 February 2016.

“The council already has a new City Plan, which has sufficient guidance within it to enable a decision to be made on the Sunland application and council, of course, was about to vote on that but the mayoral minute came in ahead and it was voted upon and it succeeded in being passed, so the Sunland development is now deferred,” said Follent.

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“The City Plan […] is also quite inconvenient to those councillors who [would] like to see the Sunland project go ahead but did not have the numbers [on Thursday]. It would’ve been refused probably by those councillors who believe it doesn’t comply sufficiently with the planning scheme in about 14 strong areas, and the council officers’ report recommended refusal.”

Follent also raised concern over projects “where the architectural merit has been seen as being so spectacular that it can ride roughshod over all other deficiencies in planning compliance.”

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In the council meeting on Thursday, the developers compared Zaha Hadid Architects’ twin towers to the Eiffel Tower and Sydney Opera House, Follent said.

“If [the Sunland development] was approved, it has to go through design development, construction, it has to be built, and the end product is not assured. Even if a panel of experts said this is an iconic building or the design is an iconic one, that it has merit, there is no certainty that what would be built going from this concept forward would be anything resembling this concept,” said Follent.

In December 2015, Sea World submitted a letter of objection against the Sunland proposal on the grounds that Sunland’s traffic report had not accurately assessed the peak holiday traffic load.

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