Thirty-five years after Noosa’s first luxury hotel – the Sheraton (now the Sofitel) – was built, two new five-star resort applications with a combined total of 300 rooms are running the gauntlet of Council’s planning process.
Six weeks after it pulled the plug on its controversial application for a 106-room hotel at Noosa Springs, the developer, Golden Horse Properties, is saddling up again. The company, which owns the Noosa Springs Golf and Spa Resort, has commissioned a new survey of residents to find out, among other things, what it will take for current objectors to support the proposal.
Some locals see it as a positive sign, saying that it demonstrates better transparency while “dealing with fact, rather than fiction”. Others are more sceptical, labelling the questionnaire as “slanted” in favour of the developer. It is too early to tell whether the results of the survey will encourage the Hong-Kong based Golden Horse to resubmit a revised plan to Council or send it to the knacker’s yard.
GH first lodged the $50m application for a 112-room hotel complex in June 2021. It sparked a campaign of opposition from a coalition of objectors from both Noosa Springs and Parkridge as well as the Noosa Ratepayers Association and wildlife groups. Council received around 450 submissions opposing the development.
A new plan reducing the number of rooms to 106 and adding new habitat trees for koalas and glossy black cockatoos was presented to Noosa councillors at the Planning Environment Committee meeting on July 11 this year. It had been given a tick by Council’s own planners but, a few days later, councillors voiced their disquiet with one saying that the proposal “did not meet community expectations and values and conflicted with the Noosa plan”.
Ouch. But before Council could formally reject it, Golden Horse withdrew the application and retreated to fight another day. This new survey of residents’ concerns seems to signal that the developer will likely come back to the fray soon with conciliatory changes to the last application.
Meanwhile, as the Noosa Springs project languishes in limbo, another luxury hotel plan is underway up the road at Noosa Heads. This one, the brainchild of the high-profile Malouf brothers, owners of the $100m Calile Hotel in Brisbane, is nearly twice the size of the Noosa Springs design with a mix of 195 rooms, suites and villas on a 22,000 sqm site at the corner of Serenity Close and Banksia Avenue. That’s even bigger than the Hastings Street Sofitel.
Although many local residents cautiously welcome the proposal (there have been fears over a possible nursing home or, shock horror, a backpackers’), the Maloufs have already had to run the gauntlet of the planning process. Their first submission in late 2022 prompted detailed requests for more information from the Council planning department which slated the initial design of the luxury resort as both “bulky” and “boxy”.
The Calile Group recently re-submitted a greatly amended version and invited the public to comment on it by August 18. Submissions were made by local residents as well as by the Noosa Junction Association and the local Chamber of Commerce. The Maloufs also made a presentation to a small group of body corporate representatives from the apartment blocks that straddle the other side of Serenity Close.
Reportedly, residents’ concerns had less to do with the building itself, and more to do with flow-on safety issues. These relate to traffic and parking congestion during both construction and operating phases.
“The roundabout at the Junction is already often gridlocked, making it difficult to enter and exit Grant Street,” said one resident who did not wish to be named.
“Grant St, being split-level, with parking and pavement problems on both sides is an accident waiting to happen,” said another. “With Banksia Avenue blocked off, the only alternative egress to Noosa Drive is via Katharina Street. But that only allows an awkward left-hand turn which is a pain if you want to go towards Noosaville.”
The Maloufs are clearly confident about their prospects of moving ahead, indicating that the sprawling development on Serenity Close could be constructed in two years, while keen observers have already witnessed activity on the site.
Will their dream scheme move through the planning process serenely (pun intended) from here on in? Or will it hit a major roadblock as the Golden Horse plan did – particularly as the planners will be gun shy after their Noosa Springs snub?
Finally, and more importantly, will 300 more hotel rooms take another bite out of Noosa’s soul? Watch this space.
Disclosure: The writer resides close to the Calile development site.