Update: Byron Shire Council has confirmed that a controversial development application for a massive food processing estate on the outskirts of Bangalow, variously dubbed a ‘food precinct’ and a ‘food hub’ has been withdrawn by the proponents following widespread objection to the development from the community.
Both the town’s Progress Association and Chamber of Commerce took a stand against the proposed development at 201 Lismore Road, with arguments including bulk and scale, traffic and parking issues, as well as the potential for flooding and pollution of adjacent Byron Creek.
And there had been a further call to arms in recent days with Bangalow resident Linda Sparrow, who organised a petition against the development, writing to supporters, ‘With just under 2,000 signatures on our petition both written and change.org, Bangalow has shown a clear message of opposition to this massive factory development on agricultural land.’
Byron Mayor Simon Richardson said, ‘It was a welcome relief… when news of the withdrawal of the Bangalow Food Hub application became known.
‘It is a testament to what an informed, inspired and invigorated community can do.
‘However, now we must turn our attention to trying to find homes for those food producers who were caught in the middle of the issue. These are great local people making great local food; hopefully, we can all use this same community invigoration to find solutions to their challenges of finding spaces to remain here and grow,’ he said.
It is not known at this stage what reasons the proponents, Chase Lismore Road Pty Ltd, gave for withdrawing the proposal but a spokesperson for Byron Shire Council said, ‘This will now be processed and staff will advise the JRPP and also those who made a submission.’
Original report: A public meeting regarding the proposed large-scale Bangalow food hub planned for 201 Lismore Road will be held by the Northern Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) on March 15.
Known as a ‘Rural Industries Food Precinct,’ it has attracted much criticism from residents owing to the scale of the proposal, land use, flood and sewerage issues and potential traffic impacts.
As the value of the application’s capital investment is over $20m, Byron Shire Council is not the consent authority for the development application (DA); instead it will be determined by the ‘independent’ JRPP, which are appointed by the government.
The northern region panel is headed by former National Party MP Garry West.
The subject site would be developed in stages and comprises three 5,000 square metre Rural (Agricultural) lndustrial Buildings B1, B2 and B3 that can be doubled in size to 10,000 square metres in later stages.
A 3,000 square metre rural industry building B4 is proposed along with three rural industry buildings of 800 square metres B5, B6 and B7, plus, a 1,000 square metre ‘food excellence facility’ (C1) where local and regional agricultural produce can be prepared and presented to food purchasers and the general public.
Within building C1 a restaurant/cafe takeaway food shop is proposed, which would primarily cater ‘for onsite employees and limited public visitor use’.
Building A1 is an existing dwelling relocated within the site to be used as an administration centre and information building.
The meeting of the Northern Joint Regional Planning Panel will take place on March 15 from 4pm at the Bangalow A&I Hall, 3 Station Street.
Please be aware that the Joint Regional Planning Panel (Northern) fails, in our view, to keep adequate public records of its Hearings. The substance of the evidence you give at a JRPP Hearing, or tabled record of your submission, is not shown in their public record of the meeting. All the JRPP does is to list your name and/or the organisation you represent and whether or not you are ‘for’ or ‘against’ the proposal. Nothing more. Not particularly useful if you are thinking about legal or administrative challenge!
At last August’s JRPP hearing at Evans Head about a manufactured home development on the State Heritage Listed Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome [right next to the main runway], we prepared a written objection, gave that evidence and asked that our written document be tabled as part of the record of the meeting. It was not. They didn’t bother to even mention our organisation. And they also failed subsequently to include my evidence in their written record of the meeting despite request. No reason was given for this refusal.
You should also be aware that you will only be given three minutes to give your evidence if you are an individual or 10 minutes if you represent an organisation. Of course, the proponent and councils have lots of opportunity to put their views sometimes right up to or just before the hearing itself, out of the public view. You are not invited to these pre-hearing meetings and you may find that there is information sharing to which you are not privy at the time of the hearing. That information may condition the decision of the JRPP. No records are kept of these pre-hearing meetings. You have no way of knowing what went on. It begs the question, why is the public not allowed to attend these meetings? Why are objectors shut out?
In our view it is unfair to introduce new material just before the hearing or at the time of the hearing or the decision without prior notice or access particularly when the JRPP’s written advice is that you should focus your comments on the report prepared by council. What about this new stuff? How come you are being shut out? How can you possibly respond when you haven’t been properly informed of new material or had the opportunity to research what is being said, particularly if it involves planning instruments which may not be familiar to you.
Of course you will be advised that you can seek remedy through the Courts but these days there is no consideration of a case on its merits. The State guvmint got rid of Merit appeals. Your challenge must relate specifically to legal matters and nothing else but how can you even challenge a legal matter if you are shut out of discussion which may involve legal matters? And even if you do challenge and win, you might find the State guvmint brings in specific legislation to over-ride the outcome. And anyway, who has the dough to pay exorbitant legal costs except for the developers and the developer’s friend, local government, which can dip into the ratepayers pockets at any time. These costs are a clear barrier to challenge made worse by the financial gutting of institutions representing the public interest such as the Environmental Defender’s Office.
Our experience shows that you also cannot rely on the JRPP to make available all the material that will be considered at the hearing 7 days before the event as indicated in the information provided to participants. We found at the last hearing we attended (17 August 2017) that new information involving negotiation between council and the proponent was put up on the JRPP website just a couple of days before the hearing and not seven days out as they tell you in their advice about what to do. We weren’t told there was new information. We didn’t think to look again for new material as we were told it would be there seven day before. Wrong. So they can pop stuff up anytime they please, or so it would seem!
And sometimes matters which have been discussed behind closed doors out of the public view under the rubric of a ‘council workshop’ may not come to your attention at all even if it is a matter which should be considered by the JRPP under various provisions of the EP& A Act.
For the Evans Head matter, council was the owner of the land as well as the agency providing the ‘independent assessment’ of the proposed development. Was the sale of the land to the proponent contingent on approval of the DA? A conflict of interest if ever there was one! It begs the question, how could the JRPP rely on the independence of advice provided by the owner of the land who is proposing to sell the land to the proponent?
In our view the JRPP process is badly flawed and the public has one arm tied behind its back before it ever begins. We think it is time for the State govt. to bring the JRPP system into line and head it up with individuals who have no history of political affiliation or engagement in other activities of the government. As it presently stands we have no confidence in the JRPP system, a system which is, in our view, a rubber stamp for the State.
Oh, and if you are planning to make representation at a JRPP Hearing make sure you make a proper recording of the event so that you have a record of what when on at the time. We did. A high definition video recording. Useful for preparing transcripts of Hearings for other purposes and for providing insight into process, such as they are!