Councillors have voted for an independent review of Margaret Strelow’s cafe plan.
Councillors have voted for an independent review of Margaret Strelow’s cafe plan. Allan Reinikka

Strelow praises cafe assessment

EX-MAYOR Margaret Strelow yesterday hailed the common sense of some of her former colleagues who took the extraordinary step of calling for an independent assessment of her planning application for a community cafe in Bolsover St.

Councillors voted by seven to four to order a professional review of the application which their own planning officers advised them to turn down.

The new assessment will “assess the extent of conditioning required to enable the application to achieve approval” and come up with conditions that would allow them to pass the controversial proposal for a facility that would serve subsidised meals to the needy.

After hearing three deputations on the issue, and lengthy questioning of supporters and detractors, Cr Greg Belz proposed the unusual independent review.

“My motion will assist us to find a way through this contentious issue,” he said.

“To date we have been given only a part of the picture and my initiative will give us the full picture to consider.”

Outside the council chamber, objectors to the proposal were incredulous and suggested the political relationship between the former mayor and her old colleagues had played a part.

Before the delegations, Crs Carter, Brady, Rutherford and Williams each said they had received endorsements of one kind or another from Margaret Strelow when she was the mayor of Rockhampton City Council and leader of the transitional authority before the election three years ago.

Cr Belz said he had received office assistance from Margaret Strelow’s husband Darryl to the value of about $500. All said they felt able to deal with the application impartially.

Cr Bill Ludwig said he felt he had no need to declare a potential conflict of interest even though he knew Mrs Strelow personally and she had bought him lunch before the election.

Mrs Strelow told the meeting she believed there had been an orchestrated fear campaign against her proposal and accused objectors of using misinformation and mischief in their dealings.

She reiterated her position that the cafe would be open to clients from all walks of life and would offer good-quality takeaway food. But from 2pm each afternoon it would provide $2 hot, nutritious meals for the needy.

Speaking in support of the application, Ian Adams, a Brisbane-based independent town planner, said the conflicts with the council’s planning scheme were minor and there were social advantages to allowing the application that provided justification for ignoring the advice of planning officers.

For the submitters, Glen Thomassen, of Designtek, a Rockhampton-based consultant, claimed the cafe would operate as a restaurant rather than a takeaway and therefore the application was flawed. He said the applicant had been unable to demonstrate an overwhelming need for the proposed use at that particular site and that the intersection of Bolsover St and Stanley St was busy and dangerous.

In the division, Crs Carter, Schwarten, Belz, Williams, Brady, Rutherford and Ludwig voted in favour of the review. Councillors Swadling, Mather, O’Brien and Svendsen voted against.

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