The Planning and Environment Court (Court) has made declarations that a series of infrastructure charges notices (ICNs) issued by Gold Coast City Council (Council) are invalid on the basis the ICNs and more specifically the accompanying information notices failed to comply with the requirements of the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (Qld) (SPA). The decision opens the door for recipients of ICNs to challenge the validity of the ICNs if the information notices that accompanied them do not contain adequate reasons.
In the decision of Sunland Group Limited & Sunland Developments No 22 Pty Ltd v Gold Coast City Council  QPEC 22, the Court found:
- The Court had jurisdiction to determine the validity of the ICNs the subject of the proceeding, despite the limited grounds for appeal against ICNs
- Council failed to provide reasons, which must go beyond a mere explanation of how the charge has been worked out, and therefore failed to provide an ‘information notice’ in accordance with the requirements of the SPA
- The effect of the non-compliance with the requirements of the SPA was that the ICNs were invalid
- There were no discretionary reasons for the Court to decline to declare the ICNs invalid.
In light of the decision, developers should carefully review ICNs received to ensure the information notices contain adequate reasons with sufficient information to enable the developer to properly understand the basis of the local government’s decision to impose infrastructure charges and the calculation of the charges. Local governments should review their ICNs and information notice templates to ensure the notices contain adequate reasons that explain Council’s reasoning for imposing the charges.