Planning Panels Victoria had been appointed to reassess Binsella Developments’ application for a sand quarry in Little River, Victoria, west of You Yangs Regional Park.
The proposal would have seen sand and soil extracted from an 82ha plot currently used as grazing farmland at an initial rate of 30,000 tonnes per year, rising to 150,000 tonnes per year.
Earlier this year, City of Greater Geelong planning officers recommended the proposal be approved, subject to 68 conditions, ahead of a planning committee meeting that had been scheduled for April 2016.
The application received 237 objections and two letters of support before the meeting. Concerns were raised over the effects on the landscape, vegetation, wildlife, tourism and the local film industry. Other potential issues raised included loss of agricultural land, water contamination, increased truck movements, dust, noise and vibrations.
The Victorian Government sacked Geelong council in April after an unrelated inquiry found it was “dysfunctional” and had a widespread culture of bullying.
The planning committee was therefore unable to make a ruling on the proposal and administrators appointed to run the council decided to send it to an independent three-person committee from Planning Panels Victoria.
The panel found the application to be “unsatisfactory, particularly in terms of the economic, visual, amenity and traffic outcomes”, according to a council report issued before the meeting to decide on the application on 26 July.
In addition, the committee was not satisfied the proposal had passed a high enough level of scrutiny and found the applicant’s documentation inadequate with respect to key issues, the report states.
The administrators decided to accept the panel’s recommendation despite council officers disagreeing with its assessment of the issues.
A Binsella Developments statement had argued the proposed quarry site was located more than 500m away from You Yangs Regional Park, with seven other quarries in the vicinity. The statement also claimed the quarry would create 65 jobs, that no trucks would travel through local towns, and that the site would gradually be returned to farm use.
Barry White, president of the Township of Lara Care Group responded to Binsella’s statement earlier this month, accusing it of “spin”.
“Be under no illusion that the continued expansion of sand quarrying within the You Yangs precinct is leading to the destruction of one [of the] most important and popular recreational and wildlife conservation resources in this state,” he said.
The campaign against the proposed quarry had also attracted media attention, with television personality Catriona Rowntree, who lives nearby, publically voicing her objections.