Judge dismisses Clive Palmer’s appeal to build thousands of homes on floodplain near sewage treatment plant

Mining magnate and property tycoon Clive Palmer has lost a more than three-year legal battle with the Gold Coast City Council, which would have seen 3,000 new dwellings built next to a sewage treatment plant.

Mr Palmer purchased the 75-hectare plot of land at Merrimac on Gooding Drive and Boowaggan Road for more than $11.5 million in 2010.

The site, which falls within a floodplain, was then home to the Avica Resort and Spa, which was used as a wedding venue.

In 2015, Mr Palmer applied to change the use of the land so he could develop 5,000 new homes.

That was later revised down to 3,000 dwellings, including buildings up to eight storeys high and a neighbourhood mixed-use hub, ready for use within 20 years.

Council knocked back the application in 2016, stating the proposed development was too close to the Merrimac sewage treatment plant and the new builds could disrupt the flood plain.

Mr Palmer tried to have the decision overturned by appealing the matter in the District Court, stating it was “erroneous, unreasonable and unlawful”.

But on Wednesday, after a three-year legal battle, a judge dismissed the application.

Mr Palmer purchased a 75-hectare plot of land at Merrimac on the Gold Coast for more than $11.5 million in 2010.(ABC New: Steve Keen)

In her decision, Judge Amanda McDonnell said residents would not be able to enjoy their new homes and neighbourhood because of the smell from the sewage treatment plant, which was less than a kilometre away.

“The proposal will be subject to adverse odours such that the residents would not enjoy a high level of amenity and the proposal places a constraint [the sewage treatment plant],” she wrote.

‘Upset scenarios’ could cause weeks of odour

Council has estimated growth in demand at the sewage treatment plant could nearly triple by 2066, and by the time it expands to cater to the growth, the plant could be within 400 metres of the proposed dwellings.

The Gold Coast 2003 scheme had previously laid out that “no residential uses [could] occur within a one-kilometre radius [of the plant]… unless further improvements [were made which] eliminate the potential for unpleasant odours within this buffer area”.

Air quality experts said that while residents would still occasionally be able to smell odours from the plant during normal operations, it wouldn’t “exceed the odour criterion”.

However, the report stated during “upset scenarios” elevated odour levels could be an issue for possibly weeks.

Lawyers for Mr Palmer also argued there was a “need” for the housing in the area, and it must be approved.

“The Appellant went further to submit that need supports approval as a stand-alone matter and also as a matter that ought overwhelm any other issue that might be said to arise from approval of the development application,” Judge McDonnell said in her decision.

However, an economist for the Gold Coast City Council said there was “no significant need for the proposal”, citing that there was enough supply to meet demand without it.

“I do not accept that the proposal will help meet a demonstrated planning need for additional dwellings in central Gold Coast,” Judge McDonnell said.

“In the circumstances, I am not satisfied there is a latent unsatisfied demand that is not being met by the planning scheme.”

Article source: www.abc.net.au

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