Council Ignoring their own Shire Planning Scheme and Codes?

At the Council meeting held on Wednesday 15th Feb, South Burnett Regional Councillors once again showed their disdain towards ratepayers concerns and ignorance over their own Shire Planning Scheme and Regional Codes/Policies that we all have to abide by.
After 7 years of a business that was being labeled ‘illegally operating’ and continuous complaints being lodged to the SBRC over disturbances caused, a Material Change of Use application was finally submitted by its operator late 2016.  Even prior to the election of the current Councillors, this unapproved, yet operating, business had been brought to the attention of Council.

Over the last few years it had become apparent to affected locals that Council inaction over the matter was not going to change, even with the new Councillors.  This no doubt was incentive for the business to increase operations, which caused greater disruptions to the quiet rural residential area.

An affected resident said, “I’ve got noise from trucks idling for up to 30 minutes anytime from 2 or 3am in the mornings, diesel fumes and their lights directly into my front bedroom”  “You cannot quietly exit their property with a truck & dog or semitrailer at that hour, it’s just not possible and they should not be allowed to have that type of business in what Council classify as a rural residential area.  We don’t live in an industrial zone.
Complaint numbers increased, yet Council still did nothing for quite some time.

I moved out to the bush to retire in the peace and quiet,  not have to be woken up by trucks from 2.30 in the morning“, said one resident.  “I have had several operations, with more to come and I need some rest and recuperation time.   That isn’t happening due to the bloody trucks in and out at all hours of the day and night

Finally this operator was issued with a Show Cause Notice and Enforcement Notice by Council,  but ignored these until deciding to lodge an application to operate legally.   This operator knew it was an offence but continued to operate illegally during this time:
The Enforcement Notice requires the operator to take specified action by 16th September 2016

  1. a) Cease operation; or
  2. b) Cease operations as a Transport Station and scale back operation to a ;home base business (as previously outlined; or
  3. c) Make application for the appropriate Material Change of Use and cease operation as a Transport Station until such time a development permit is obtained (if at all)

An Enforcement Notice makes is quite clear that “it is an office against the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 not to comply with the Notice” and the operator was advised of this fact.

Residents lodged objections showing complete detailed reasons quoting all Council stipulations, regulations and codes that this operator had not met during the past years.  These were direct from the SBRC own Planning Scheme, policies and codes for Home Business operations under which this operator may have been guided to apply.

Affected residents also pointed out quite clearly that this particular type of business was also ‘impact assessable’ by the Council standards but it became obvious that that information was disregarded by Council staff.  It was confirmed, by Council Planning Officers & Management staff internal correspondence obtained under RTI, that this operation was being labelled a ‘Transport Station’.

By Councils very own definition of a Home Based Business it cannot:
1. “include any type of motor vehicle service, refuelling or repair on the site”

2. “produce[s] any noise, odour, dust, flood lighting or airborne emissions and vibrations of electrical interference which would be other than reasonably associated with the principal dwelling unit on the site” or

3. creates a “need for use of or servicing by heavy vehicles”.

Council management and Councillors were obviously aware that this type of business does not fall under their Home Based Business Code due it being an industrial and heavy haulage operation, yet they decided to quickly push it through Council.

I feel it was a deliberate and blatant ‘let’s stick it to em’ shot at the people who dare complain to Council” said one locally affected resident. “These people get paid a lot of our money to know the rules, laws, procedures and policies and were elected to protect our lifestyle choice and amenities within the Shire, not pander to their pub mates outside the Chambers“.  “Is this what our elected Councillors believe that the words ‘Honest, Accountable and Transparent’ mean?  trying to underhandedly push through something that is not legal just to piss off and shut up ratepayers with their many alleged ‘frivolous claims’?”
“I suppose some of these Councillors probably think that the residents of Memerambi are wasting Councils time and money with their ‘frivolous claims’ too”

At February’s  meeting,  Councillors ignored all information passed on from affected residents to Executive and Management staff and directly to Councillors voting unanimously to allow this business to operate – granting 24 hr operations virtually unrestricted.
Further to that Cr Fleischfresser, who has the portfolio for Planning and Development,  moved a motion to have one of the conditions amended and another removed – again contra to their own basic planning regulations.  Passed unanimously.

With the distinct probability that the outcome of any application for a Transport Station within the zoned Rural Residential area would not be allowed, how can Council justify their actions by advising, assisting or directing this business owner to lodge an incorrect application?

These are just a few of the issues raised by residents:

Due the location of entry/exit points and the nature of the business even the most basic of Councils own Home-based business code conditions will not be met.

Part 4 – Division 2 – 4.6 Home-based business code:

(c) O3 (2):   Have direct, safe, practical and trafficable access to a public road without impacting on local amenity and character of the safe and effective movement of passing traffic, and

(3)  has frontage to a public road having a standard of construction and service necessary to accommodate traffic generated by the use without adversely affecting local amenity.

(d) O5:  Through appropriate side and rear boundary treatments, the privacy and amenity of adjoining residences is not unreasonably affected by the location and operation of the (1) Home based business, and

(2) vehicular movements associated with the use.

guidelines set out in S2.7 (a)(2) of Schedule 2
(2) If in the Rural, Rural Residential, Urban or Village Locality and except as specified in an applicable use code, where more than one property access is needed, access points from the same road are separated by at least 15 metres with setbacks of at least 10 metres from any intersection or property access on an adjoining site.

The SBRC own Home Based Business Code purpose is to offer some protection and guarantee of retaining social amenities within the surrounding neighbourhood.   The decision of Councillors on this application has been a direct slap in the face to affected local residents.

(1) PURPOSE OF THE CODE – Overall Outcomes:
(a) The Purpose of the Home-based Business Code is the achievement of the overall outcomes sought for the establishment and use of Home-based businesses in the Shire.
(b) The overall outcomes sought for a Home-based business are that uses and works are sited and designed so that:
  (i) they are integrated as a small-scale component of the dwelling unit and subsidiary in form and function to the principal residential use on the site,
(ii) they have a form and appearance compatible with the scale, character and environmental values exhibited or desired for the local setting,
(iii) the wellbeing and safety of the community is maintained,
(iv) any off-site impacts, particularly in residential and rural residential localities, are minimised to an acceptable level,
(v) acceptable levels of privacy and amenity for residents of the premises and that of adjoining premises are maintained,
(vi) they operate within the safe and effective design capacity of the utilities and transport networks servicing the area, and
(vii) unacceptable impacts on the viability and vitality of the Shire’s commercial, industrial or community services are minimised.