Howlong residents forced to wait for JRPP decision on Cleanaway compost facility

HOWLONG remains on edge after a decision to establish a compost facility on the edge of town was deferred at the end of a marathon hearing on Thursday.

JRPP panel chairman Gordon Kirkby at the Howlong Golf Resort on Friday. Picture: MARK JESSER

JRPP panel chairman Gordon Kirkby at the Howlong Golf Resort on Friday. Picture: MARK JESSER

After listening to more than 60 speakers, Joint Regional Planning Panel chairman Gordon Kirkby said delaying a call for an unspecified period was the fairest outcome for all parties.

More than 300 people jammed into the Howlong Golf Resort for the hearing which has put the Howlong community and Federation Council on a collision course since Cleanaway announced plans to build the compost plant within the town’s tip.

“It is obviously a development that has a lot of potential impacts,” Mr Kirkby said.

“There is a lot of documentation to go through and to do justice to the process we need time to go through those issues.”

Of particular interest to the panel is Howlong’s future growth patterns with approval of the compost plant potentially ending any opportunity to expand in a northerly direction.

But it also emerged during the hearing expansion to the east would be compromised by a recent dairy expansion.

The panel will also seek further information on odour assessment reports.

The delay in reaching a decision was also influenced by Mr Kirkby and another panel member Mark Grayson experiencing flight delays into Albury due to fog.

“Their determination and sincerity about concerns about the proposal just has to stick I think,” he said.

“A snap decision was the most unlikely option unless it was a lay down misere.”

Cleanaway project manager Mathew Kiervan said the company had attempted to engage with the community on its key concerns including odour and increased traffic.

Mr Kiervan said he was comfortable with the deferment

“I don’t think it speaks to any way it is going to go other than they are seeking further information,” he said.

Cleanaway is making a second attempt at establishing a compost facility as part of multi-million dollar waste collection contract servicing the Albury, Wodonga, Indigo and Federation council areas.

Plans to build one at Gerorgery was rejected by a JRPP four years ago before Cleanaway made an unsuccessful appeal to the NSW Land and Environment Court.

The Howlong proposal has the backing of Federation Council.

“Council respects the process being undertaken and will await to hear the outcome," administrator Mike Eden said.

The HCC has already flagged a court challenge if the JRPP approves the Howlong plant with Mr Sizer revealing his organisation had raised $30,000 to fight Cleanaway.

“Cleanaway doesn’t understand or acknowledge the Howlong community’s concerns experienced by the HCC or the many community objections,” he said.

“The EPA has gone to unprecedented levels to address environmental concerns.

“This is a clear message that the EPA is concerned.”

An environmental consultant engaged by the HCC, Simon Leake, said the only way the plant should be approved is if it was fully enclosed.

“There is all these leakages and fugitive emissions which add up to serious problems," he said.

“It is not a perception. Odour is the most serious problem.”

Another HCC consultant, Peter O’Dwyer, said the plant should be established in Albury-Wodonga.