Community & Business

2 December, 2023

Neighbours fail to stop accommodation project

A PLAN to provide up to 144 farm workers with accommodation on a Fichera Road property has been approved despite an attempt by neighbours and others to stop the development, citing safety concerns and objections to the facility being established on “strategic cropping land”.

By Robyn Holmes

Neighbours fail to stop accommodation project - feature photo

Mareeba Shire Councillors made little comment on the application before approving it at its recent meeting, leaving other nearby landholders disappointed that the 19 objections were not enough to stop the accommodation facility from going ahead.

A council report stated that the overarching concerns were the impact on existing rural lifestyle and amenity as well as the anticipated increase in traffic on the local road network.

Because Fichera Road is a rural zoned area, objections centred on an “unreasonable expectation of amenity within the rural zone”, the report stated.

“Notwithstanding this, council officers have considered the submitters’ concerns, and reasonable conditions have been applied to help maintain the existing rural amenity, particularly with regards to noise and light emissions.

“Significant landscape buffering is also required to screen the development from view of neighbouring properties and Fichera Road users, helping to reduce impacts on visual amenity and to preserve the appearance of the rural landscape.”

Given that the development would “generate a noticeable increase in vehicle movements on the local road network”, the developer will also be required to widen 1.34km length of the road leading up to and including the site frontage in order to help reduce traffic impacts and improve road safety.

Other conditions include the developer needing approval from the Environmental Protection Agency for its wastewater system; no playing of amplified music at any time that disturbs neighbours; up to 3m wide and 4m high landscape buffers that must be put in place when building works commence; and an adequate number of 12-seater minibuses provided to transport the workers to farms.

Councillors noted that the conditions may prove to be too difficult for the developer and could affect whether the project would go ahead.

But this did little to comfort Fichera Road property owner Tammy Tiraboschi who attended the council meeting with other nearby landholders, and left feeling disappointed and frustrated.

“It appeared to myself and the other residents who attended, that certain councillors appeared to be relying on the EPA, as well as the applicant not wishing to upgrade Fichera Road as reasons to approve the report in the hope that maybe the application won’t go any further, rather than pause and look in greater detail at the MSC Planning Scheme’s lack of definition around acceptable development for Workforce Accommodation for the shire and work on a clearer definition, planning codes etc, prior to approving both this and future similar applications,” she said.

“A residential site of the magnitude in this application, in the context of this particular rural zone area, is outrageous. At the very least, it should have been reduced in size.”

Ms Tiraboschi said council should be supporting smaller more site-specific accommodation sites.

“In and around Mareeba there have been over six existing workers’ accommodation sites council approved that I am aware of in the last couple of years alone,” she said.

“They are accommodating close to 300 workers in total. Of these, the highest number of residents permitted in just one site has a capacity of 60 – a far cry from 144!

“All of these “approved” accommodation sites have been set nearer to suitable road networks and upon less viable rural land. So once again, this recent workforce accommodation application in the context of ‘rural use’ in the location selected, at the size chosen, is disgraceful.”

The ability for the roads in the vicinity of the project to cater for additional traffic was a key concern for many of those who objected to the development.

“The road is unsafe and dangerous when oncoming traffic is approaching on one lane blind corners. Most the road is predominantly one lane and the road has a lot of wear and tear issues,” Fichera Road resident Anthony Henderson wrote in his submission.

“Lockwood Road is a one lane dirt road that is not accessible for a lot of the year due to the wet season. It is also very unsafe with a lot of tight, blind corners that struggles to fit two vehicles in width when passing each other.

“(There are only) single lane bridges on both Lockwood Road and Fichera Road. The infrastructure on our road is not up to the standards required to allow the proposal to go ahead safely.”

Ms Tiraboschi agreed, saying the council’s decision was a disgrace.

“It is a disgrace to expect local rural residents to absorb the significant impact to traffic safety along a minor rural road network, with a narrow, single lane, obscured bridge, simply because the current MSC Planning Scheme is not robust enough to prevent such applications with developers deeming ‘large as they like’ accommodation (residential) sites as – for a ‘rural use’,” she said.

“This is a cautionary tale to fellow rural residents and rural road users, that unless there are changes to the MSC Planning Scheme to prevent large residential sites being built upon agricultural land for ‘rural use’, then it is only a matter of time that one could be built in your rural zone.”


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