Poor standard of visual amenity on Gympie Road no justification for oversized sign

21 April 2017
Stafford Hopewell, Special Counsel, Brisbane

The Planning and Environment Court in Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group Pty Ltd v Moreton Bay Regional Council [2017] QPEC 8 dismissed an appeal by the Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group Pty Ltd against Moreton Bay Regional Council’s refusal of its development application for a development permit for the installation of an advertising sign along Gympie Road, Strathpine.

The area in which the sign was to be located had a poor civic amenity comprising a landscape of cars and signage, with open and unattractive areas with few landscape features.

The proposed sign was to be a double faced sign with the following characteristics:

  • each sign face would have a face area of 86.78m2 (dimensions of 18.99m x 4.75m);
  • the sign faces would meet at a point close to the road frontage, but track away from each other to be 10.27m apart at the widest point;
  • the underside of each sign face would have a ground clearance of 9.65m;
  • the overall height of each sign would be 15.22m;
  • each sign face would have 6 floodlights at the base to illuminate it at night.

The size of the proposed sign was matched only by the size of the pylon sign for Strathpine Shopping Centre on the opposite side of Gympie Road, which was approximately 17m wide, 21m high and comprised of multiple panels. The proposed sign was to sit between two existing pylon signs, each of which only reached just over 8m in height.

The application was impact assessable however, despite its size it attracted no adverse submissions.

The Court assessed the proposed sign against the Council’s 2006 planning scheme which was in force at the time the application was made and the 2016 planning scheme which commenced during the course of the appeal.

The Court found that there was material conflict between the proposed sign and the applicable advertising devices code under the 2006 and 2016 planning schemes which could not be overcome or justified by any sufficient grounds.


Snapshot of Court’s consideration and findings

The 2006 planning scheme

The Council contended that due to the location, scale and size of the proposed sign, the sign:

  • was in conflict with the purpose of the Advertising Signs Code and Specific Outcome 2;
  • an approval of the sign would make an existing situation materially worse and adversely impact on the forward planning of the area.

Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group conceded that the proposed sign did not satisfy the probable solutions for SO2 and was inconsistent with the forward planning for the area, but contended the following alternative probable solution to SO2:

  • the sign was subservient, rather than dominant to the character as a whole, and the immediate surrounds featured a poor visual amenity and there were no desirable characteristics of the built and natural environment of the immediate surround such that the signage was not required to be subservient to anything;
  • the sign would not cut across or render what was desired for the future in the area in any material way.

The Court determined that the proposed sign would have a significant adverse effect on the established character and streetscape of the area, considered as a whole and be in conflict with SO2 of the Advertising Signs Code. In making the determination, the Court noted that:

  • whilst the immediate area had low visual amenity, it could not be demonstrated that the sign would be “subservient” to its immediate surrounds, regardless of the desirability of those immediate surrounds;
  • whilst acknowledging that the area was of low visual amenity, the Court was not convinced that just because an area was of low visual amenity, the sign could not further adversely impact on the visual amenity;
  • the proposed sign would be ‘visually discordant’ with the existing signage in the area, and would not minimise visual clutter.
2016 Planning Scheme

The Court noted that the relevant provisions of the code for advertising devices under the 2016 planning scheme was not dissimilar to the code under the 2006 planning scheme.

The Court determined that the proposed sign was in conflict with the purpose of the code and Performance Outcome 1, as the proposed sign would:

  • contribute to visual clutter and be visually dominant if not overbearing;
  • not complement the existing and future planned character and amenity of the area;
  • not maintain a human scale and detract from the form and function of a pedestrian-friendly environment; and
  • not be compatible with the surrounding streetscape and landscape.
Sufficient grounds

Whilst Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group identified grounds for an approval of the proposed sign, some of those grounds were later abandoned and it conceded that the remaining grounds were not sufficient to warrant approval of the sign in the event that material conflict was found with the 2006 and 2016 planning schemes.

Given that the Court determined that the proposed sign was in material conflict with the 2006 and 2016 planning schemes, there were no sufficient grounds to justify an approval of the sign despite the conflict.


Points worth noting

When assessing a development in areas with poor visual amenity, the standard of demonstrating whether the development adversely impacts on the visual amenity of the area will not necessarily be reduced.

A development is capable of adversely affecting areas which are already of low visual amenity.

This update does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.

Get in touch