Anyone who has ever had to apply to the council to have something built on their property will be aware of the often-complex process of having a development application or DA finalised and approved.
The process seems thorough and fool-proof, but on closer investigation there appear to be some holes in the public consultation and appeals phases.
A large-scale project is occurring in my electorate and it is resulting in many questions being raised as to the fairness and transparency of the planning process we have in place in this state.
The project I am referring to is the building of a waste processing centre in Invermay by the owner of the site, Marching Ants (Tas) Pty Ltd, that will be operated by Veolia, on Churchill Park Drive.
The original DA documents that were listed online for public consultation, did not contain any Traffic Management Plan (TMP) and the Lighting Study had no detailed specifics.
The TMP was only made available on the website, once the consultation phase was closed and it seemed to contain limited information and solely focused on the specific DA and not any surrounding DAs that infringed on traffic flow in the area.
This seems unusual because when the DA was being considered for the new UTAS 825-car carpark just up the road, the TMP included the nearby Good Guys/Bunnings site, as it shared the impact on traffic flow in the area.
So why wasn't the UTAS carpark site included in the TMP for the waste processing site?
In fact, when I was in the council in around 2005, when the suggestion was put forward to extend Forster Street to Vermont Road, the council voted against it due to the public outcry about the increase in the volume of traffic that would be going through the area.
Now, despite a public outcry about noise, traffic (approximately 50 trucks coming and going and up to 106 cars parked at the site), odour and vibrations to nearby residents, the DA has been "Delegated Approval Discretionary", according to the council website.
Another question - what does this exactly mean?
The site for this centre is in an area zoned Light Industrial.
This means the council has the discretion to decide whether or not the proposal fits in with any greater area plan that it might have. This site is also in a flood zone and is only approximately 40 metres from the North Esk River. The council originally employed an independent company, GHD, to review the DA, as there was a possible conflict of interest, with Veolia already having a contract with the council.
The ironic thing was that GHD was previously involved in the original DA for the site anyway. So when GHD saw no problem with the DA, and passed it, could that not be perceived as GHD having a conflict of interest as well? After the GHD review, the DA was rejected by the council due to the probable resulting noise issues and the lack of noise mitigation strategies contained in the DA.
Marching Ants then took the council's decision to the Resource Management and Planning Appeal Tribunal (RMPAT).
During the appeal, Marching Ants said that it would erect a six-metre "noise wall ..., limiting the time that the doors in the main building are open... provision of noise attenuating insulation in the walls and ceiling of the main building". As well as this Marching Ants proposed that "all trucks departing before 7AM will be parked more than 40m from the western boundary and will exit the site without passing closer than 40m from the boundary", the site will be fully sealed, the speed limit set to 10km/h and reversing of vehicles would be minimised.
RMPAT was satisfied that these mitigation strategies would alleviate the noise issues and so Ground 1 of the appeal was in favour of Marching Ants.
What was not known publicly was that Marching Ants also appealed to RMPAT to have the original operating hours of 6am to 6pm Monday to Friday, extended.
The increased times it wanted were from 4am to 6pm Monday to Friday, and Saturdays and Public Holidays from 4am to 4pm, and starting kerbside collection at 4am on Sundays.
The council said that there "is no ability to grant an application for something other than what was (originally) sought." But under Section 22(3) of the Resource Management and Planning Appeal Tribunal Act 1993, and citing previous cases where approvals were made during the appeal tribunal process, RMPAT then "approved" this modification and directed the council to issue a permit because "The extension of hours does not constitute a difference that would transform the originally proposed development into something different to that which was applied for..."
This new information regarding operating hours was not sent back out for public consultation, nor to the council for approval.
Does RMPAT have the authority to approve changes to DAs that have not been seen by the public or the council?
If it does, I am of the opinion the system is flawed in favour of developers and the process requires reviewing.
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