The approval of a major apartment tower in Brisbane should be declared invalid, a Queensland court has heard.

Presenting his case before the Planning and Environment Court, University of Queensland lawyer Roger Traves called for Brisbane City Council’s approval last December of the $375 million Cbus development to be set aside.

Arguing that a decision by the Council’s planning officer to allow Cbus Property to transfer what had previously been an approval to develop next to a heritage site next to the historic National Australia Bank building and to instead develop next to the Custom House site owned by the university more than doubled the size of the gross floor area from 20,000 square meters to 44,000 square meters, Traves argued that the application should have been considered to be an impact assessable development rather than a code assessable development and should thus have been subject to a public submission process.

“The university contends the decision is invalid and should be set aside,” Traves is quoted as saying in the Australian Financial Review.

Approved last December, the 47 storey riverfront tower Cbus building at 443 Queen Street aims to create Brisbane’s first truly subtropical tower and is geared toward the ‘high rise Queenslander’

A key feature revolves around a unique design which will see every one of 264 premium apartments enjoy views of the Brisbane River.

The development has prompted controversy, however, due to its positioning next to the heritage listed Customs House owned by the University which was built in 1849 to collect customs duty and is one of the most prized heritage sites in the city.

There is also concern from a community group opposed to the project that it could threaten the future of a historic fig tree on the site.

Lawyer for Cbus Daniel Core said the company had gone to considerable lengths in order to address these and other concerns.

Cbus Property is the property arm of Cbus, the industry superannuation fund which covers the building and construction industry.

First introduced in Queensland in 1987, transferable development rights are a tool whereby governments aim to restrict development in one area considered to be of high conservation heritage or value and promote development in areas of lesser conservation or heritage value.

Under such rules, the government essentially restricts development rights in and around one area considered to be of high preservation value in return for granting rights for the development of other areas which are considered to be of lower preservation value.