Council ‘ignored’ in Woolworths’ approval
BYRON Council and opponents have reacted angrily to the State Government’s approval of a modified development application for the planned Woolworths supermarket at Mullumbimby.
The decision brought a sharp response from the council’s director of planning, development and environment services, Ray Darney, who described it as ‘disappointing’.
Mr Darney accused the government of ignoring the council’s recommendations, especially in relation to effluent disposal.
“This has been a long battle and once again it’s disappointing to see the State Government ignoring council’s recommendations,” he said.
“The effluent disposal is understated and the water cleaning usage is illogical and raises concerns about hygiene.
“The approved development has allowed for only 250 litres of public effluent disposal which equates to only 25 customers using the public toilets on a daily basis. This is obviously of concern.
“We acknowledge that Woolworths will be seeking to connect to the Brunswick Valley Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) upon the STP’s completion, however this will take at least two years.
“In the meantime they will be transporting excess effluent from the site during wet periods, which is against council policy.
“Likewise the stated water allowance of only 730 litres to clean the premises raises concerns about the cleaning process despite Woolworths claiming all meat preparation, bakery, fresh seafood and chicken cooking facilities will be limited on site.”
Mr Darney said the approved Woolworths modifications included the project being completed in one stage with a building construction of 2500 square metres.
He said while the improved aesthetics of the building and further setback on the western front were welcomed, the council was also concerned about the new loading dock entrance on the northern end of the building.
“The loading dock location allows for greater public convenience and safety, but will seriously impact on Station Street residents due to increased noise from delivery trucks travelling an additional 175 metres,” he said.
Mr Darney said the council would continue to voice its concerns to the NSW Department of Planning in regard to the ‘inappropriate assessment’ of the application and the issue of on-site waste disposal.
Mullumbimby Community Action Network (MCAN) co-ordinator Deborah Lilly said the community and the council had been ‘ripped off’ by the government and vowed to continue to fight against the development.
Ms Lilly said the council’s submission on the application had been ignored and the community had been effectively silenced for seven months by the lack of transparency and the secret dealings behind closed doors, ‘when they kept fobbing us off, ignoring our requests for information’.
But while MCAN is down, it is certainly not out, and work has already begun on the next stage of the campaign.
“I am fired up and motivated to continue our campaign,” said Ms Lilley, “and this will be added impetus to get people involved again.
“After seven months the energy dissipated, but now we know what we’re up against, we can get together again.”
Civil engineer Duncan Dey, whose specialty is on-site waste sewage systems, regards the developer’s plan for sewage management as ‘a joke’.
“What they don’t realise is that the ground can be wet for months at a time, and the volume to be stored will be huge,” he said.
“But we know exactly what will happen – they’ll build, then say, guess what, our approved on-site system doesn’t work, and then they’ll ask for further concessions.
“It’s a foot-in-the-door approach, approved by people in Sydney 800 kilometres away.”
Some Mullumbimby residents like Bill Shirley, however, think the news is ‘great’.
“Too many growth incentives have been jumped on,” said Bill, “but the population is growing all the time, and a lot travel to Byron Bay or to the Gold Coast to shop.
“It’s a signal that a large well-man aged company has seen fit to choose Mullumbimby for growth, and that’s healthy for everybody.”
In a media release, the Department of Planning said it had approved the modifications after a ‘rigorous assessment’ and the development was subject to strict conditions.
The department said the modification would result in an improved building and carpark design compared with the original plans, generate local jobs and would allow residents to shop close to home.
It said the original application approved in 2006 included a 2500 square metre supermarket and bottle shop along with 138 parking spaces, to be constructed in two stages.
A modification was lodged in 2008 which included:
• Increasing the floor area of the supermarket and number of car parking spaces constructed in the first stage of development;
• Allowing deliveries on Sunday mornings;
• Changing the building design and signage;
• Relocating the loading dock; and
• Changes to the proposed on-site sewage management system for the first stage of the development.
The modification did not involve an increase in the overall size of the retail floor space.
Department of Planning Major Project Assessments executive director Chris Wilson said the application was exhibited on two occasions to accommodate community concern and subsequent amendments to the plans.
“A key concern raised in submissions was the capacity of the proposed on-site sewage management system to service the development,” he on said.
“As a result, the department engaged wastewater specialists to review the proposal.”
Mr Wilson said that following this review, Woolworths had provided more detail and made changes to its proposal, including:
• Deferring introduction of in-house, water-intensive fresh food preparation areas until a later stage of development which will be linked to the introduction of a reticulated sewer at the site;
• Installing the highest-rated water-saving devices;
• Minimising hose use to clean areas.
He said the department had imposed a condition requiring effluent irrigation to stop when the soil was too wet. This condition and the wastewater storage tanks on site would ensure that the system continued to function in times of rainfall.
Mr Wilson said the final approval included a number of conditions, including:
• A three-month trial period for Sunday deliveries between 10am-12pm (reduced from the proposed 8am-12pm) must be implemented and be subject to review at the end of this period to determine whether Sunday deliveries should be allowed on an ongoing basis.
• Should Sunday deliveries be allowed, only fixed-axle vehicles no more than 13 metres in length can undertake this role.
• An acoustic fence must be constructed around the loading dock to minimise noise around the loading area.
• The development must undergo two noise verification tests, one prior to occupation and one within three months of the start of operation.
• Trucks must not be left idling during loading and unloading and are prohibited from queuing on Station Street at any time.