21 April, 2023
Farm ceases operations pending council decision
A POPULAR farm camping operation has suspended its operations indefinitely pending the outcome of a development application to Tablelands Regional Council to markedly expand its activities.
Old Mates Farm, run by Tony Freeman and Louise Livingstone, is currently the subject of a development application that would allow the property to cater for a maximum of 54 people, compared with the current approval that allows for “an average” of 12 people at five campsites.
However, neighbours in Hemmings Lane are totally opposed to the farm’s activities expanding, citing concerns about whether the single-lane dirt road can handle increased traffic, and angry that the property has been breaching its conditions of approval for years, with the farm’s website advertising 18 campsites that could potentially cater to 180 people.
Council wrote to the owners in late December to “request” that they “limit the tourism use to the scale outlined in their existing development permit” and warned that if they failed to comply, enforcement action would be considered.
“We have received several complaints that Old Mates Farm is operating at a scale that exceeds their current development permit,” CEO Gary Rinehart said last week.
“We are following the relevant enforcement process to ensure allegations are thoroughly investigated. This allows for people or businesses suspected of carrying out a development offence to provide a timely response to the allegations.
“The use must operate in accordance with a current development permit while
the matter is being investigated otherwise further enforcement action may be taken.”
Mr Freeman told The Express it was not viable to open while they could only have 12 people as guests.
He said TRC had been “relaxed and lenient” over the past few years while they had been working with the couple on developing the new application which would allow them to legally host more people.
“The residents (along Hemmings Lane) have been relentless since the new application was submitted – they have forced TRC to act, backed them into a corner,” he said.
“We could open on the original condi-tions (imposed by TRC) but it’s not viable - we will not open again with just 12 people.”
A major sticking point for the nearby residents is the one-lane gravel road which they say cannot handle the additional traffic that would be generated by an expanding the operations at the farm.
Nearby property owner Russell Lynch, who is totally opposed to the expansion, said Hemmings Lane would require a major upgrade to a two-lane sealed road as well as the bridge and the intersection with the Kennedy Highway to accommodate the increased traffic.
“Both Tony Freeman and Louise Livingstone demand, and, in his letter of support for the expansion, Member for Kennedy Bob Katter suggested that the funding cost for the upgrades would be ‘megabucks’ and should be funded by TRC ratepayers or Queensland taxpayers – for what? To line the purse of two self-indulgent individuals,” he said.
Mr Freeman said TRC had required they provide an independent Traffic Impact Assessment as part of the application process which had now been completed.
“The traffic study shows that the road can easily handle the traffic we would generate,” he said.
“But it would need better maintenance.”
TRC has now installed a traffic counter to verify vehicle movements on Hemmings Lane which the traffic study states is approximately 50 vehicles a day. The study estimates that the expansion of the farm’s activities would generate an additional 28 vehicles per day, and while this represented a 56 per cent increase, traffic volumes would remain “relatively low”.
“It is reasonable to conclude that the proposed development will not result in a significant impact on existing intersection performance, performance of Hemmings Lane, road safety, access or road frontage, or road link capacity,” the study stated.
But it recommended that council inspect Hemmings Lane and undertake roadside vegetation slashing, repair pot-holes (particularly at the existing bridge location) and “repair the significant ruts identified in the road carriageway adjacent to Old Mates Farm’s existing access”.
It also recommended that council should determine if upgrade works are warranted, but stated that if that was the case, “it is not considered appropriate for the applicant to contribute to any associated costs because the work would not be required due to the proposed development”.
It is unknown when the matter will be brought before council for a decision.