Composter takes council to court over rejected application

AN IPSWICH composter is fighting the council in court over its rejection of an application that included measures the operator says will reduce odour.

NuGrow launched the court challenge last month after Ipswich City Council rejected an application over the company's Swanbank site.

The council claimed the application would increase the amount of land used for composting and dramatically change the operation.

It comes as the State Government launches a detailed investigation into the smell that has been plaguing Ipswich residents for years.

The investigation, to be led by an independent consultant, will look at composters.

According to court documents, NuGrow applied to remove odour screening devices - such as removing buffer vegetation, altering internal roads, changing stormwater ponds and increasing the amount of land on which it processes compost material.

As part of that application, the company proposed to use smaller windrows, piles of organic matter, to improve productivity which would also reduce odour, NuGrow says.

Open windrow composting involves turning compost heaps with a tractor, wheel loader, excavator or purpose-built windrow turner to loosen and mix the materials.

Previously excavators were used to aerate windrows at NuGrow, however, the company's methodology has changed.

Windrow turners will now be used which requires the windrows to be spaced further apart.

The changes would not result in increased compost production, NuGrow says in court documents, but the space required to process the piles would take up a larger area, hence the reduction of buffer vegetation.

The application was rejected by the council in May.

In its response, the council said it did not consider the proposed changes as minor.

In a letter addressed to NuGrow, and uploaded onto the council's development website, PD online, the assessment officer says the proposed changes would result in an overall increase to the operational area.

The officer also raises concern that areas previously approved for specific uses had been generally marked 'operational areas' in the new plans.

"As previously advised, the changes described above do not constitute a 'minor change' in Council's opinion as the proposal results in a substantially different development, changes the operation of the development from that intended and is likely to introduce new impacts or increase the severity of known impacts," the letter sent in April states.

Lawyers for NuGrow have argued the proposed change is minor, would reduce impacts on the surrounding community and would improve composting processes.

In a statement provided to the QT, NuGrow said using smaller windrows would lead to reduced risk of odour, generate fewer greenhouse gases and improve visual amenity.

"However, to employ this method and maintain current production volumes, more of the site needs to be used for the windrow activity," a spokesperson said.

"To this end, NuGrow has proposed the revised layout contained in the development application now before Council."

A spokesperson for Ipswich City Council repeated statements made in the letter to NuGrow and said the proposed changes should be lodged as a new Material Change of Use which would go out for public notification.

"Council's decision was that the proposed changed development would be a substantially different development when compared to the existing approval," the spokesperson said. 

"Therefore, the proposed change does not meet the requirements of the Planning Act 2016. 

"The effect of this decision (if upheld) is that the proposed changes would constitute a new Material Change of Use.

"A Material Change of Use for this proposal would be required to go through public notification."

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