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Court upholds council’s rejection of application to expand landfill

A decision by Ipswich City Council to reject an application to increase the intensity and scale of a landfill at Swanbank has been upheld by the Planning and Environment Court.

Bio-recycle Australia Pty Ltd, trading as Better Grow (Bio-Recycle), operates a landfill for non-putrescible waste – mostly construction and demolition wastes – at its Memorial Drive, Swanbank facility.

It currently has approval to fill an old mining void on site to a maximum height of 75m by taking up to 200,000 tonnes of waste per year.

In June 2017, the company applied to increase the maximum filling height by 27m to 99m and increase the amount of waste it can take each year from 200,000 tonnes to 450,000 tonnes.

Council rejected the application on the grounds it was not consistent with planning principles and that the increased height of the mound would have a negative impact on the area’s amenity, particularly the nearby Ripley Valley Priority Development Area.

Bio-recycle Australia Pty Ltd appealed council’s decision to the Planning and Environment Court.

In handing down his judgement, His Honour Judge Michael Williamson QC found an approval would “only serve to undermine the community’s confidence in the planning scheme” and the application should be refused.

“The planning benefits that may be attributed to the proposed development have to be balanced against its long term effects, for which there is no planning, community or economic need,” Judge Williamson noted in his judgement.

“The long term effects involve the creation of an eight storey mound of landfill that does not achieve the intended visual amenity outcomes for the locality, as articulated in the planning scheme.”

Ipswich City Council’s Manager, Development Planning Brett Davey said council’s planning officers had significant concerns about the development and he was therefore extremely pleased with the court’s decision.

“The subject site is in the Swanbank/New Chum – Waste Activity Area of Temporary Local Planning Instrument No. 1 of 2018 (Waste Activity Regulation),” he said.

“The proposed expansion was inconsistent with the overall outcomes/purpose of the Swanbank/New Chum Waste Activity Code as it was likely to have a significant impact on visual amenity from residential and other sensitive receiving uses.

“The applicant had also failed to demonstrate that there is a need to extend the life of the existing facility by increasing the landfill height from the approved level.

“Waste related activities including landfills have attracted significant attention from the community in the last two to three years and council has received a large amount of submissions objecting to waste related development applications.

“These cite community concerns about amenity impacts (including odour, noise) from currently operating landfill facilities.

“The Queensland Government has recently made a range of legislative and policy reforms and released a number of directions/discussions papers, strategies and development programs with respect to the management of the waste industry, which is aimed at significantly changing the way in which we deal with waste in Queensland. It is hoped that these reforms will assist in reducing the reliance on landfill.

“Whilst council recognises that there will still be a need for landfills in the short term, it is hoped that the outcome of this case sends a clear message that council is prepared to refuse non-compliant development, including waste related development proposals that do not comply with the relevant planning provisions and also defend such decisions in the Planning and Environment Court.”

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