Congratulations and concerns as Terra Ag wins | Photos, poll

Griffith City Council voted to approve the controversial Terra Ag development application near the city’s Sikh temple at a special meeting held Thursday night. 

The new lot would see the business move its site to the corner of Kidman Way and Thorne road, across the road from the Temple. 

Terra Ag had promised Griffith City Council they will withdraw their current development application next to the Sikh temple, in exchange for another one being approved. 

Council heard from objectors and Terra Ag themselves before moving to a vote.

They voted in favour of approving the development application subject to conditions of consent laid out by council. 

The matter will move to a conciliation process where they will seek to finalise a number of issues, such as the of number of sealed car park spaces, a landscaping plan and extent of sealing of internal road ways. 

The issue began in 2016 when council voted to oppose Terra Ag’s development application to build a rural supplies business. 

Griffith’s Sikh community had argued it was inappropriate for the development it be located next to a sacred space. A spokesperson for the Sikh community has said any further course of action has not been decided. 

"It's not gone in our favour, but it's alright," he said. 

Terra Ag owner Mark Zanatta said he was happy with the decision. 

“We’re pleased with the result. We’ve come to some compromise with the neighbours and we’re hoping to move forward with them.”

“We’re thankful for the councillors making a hard decision and we believe it was the right one for the community.” 

The new proposed site. Source: Griffith City Council

The new proposed site. Source: Griffith City Council

Opponents of the application had previously said the development was actually a bulk fertiliser storage facility, prohibited under Griffith’s Local Environment Plan. 

In July, the Sikh community rejoiced as the Land and Environment Court of NSW dismissed Terra Ag’s case, on the grounds its proposed development could be “characterised as a heavy industrial storage facility” and is therefore “prohibited” in the zone. 

Terra Ag appealed this decision, and the court upheld their appeal – ruling the July judgement failed to prove the development could be classed as a heavy industrial storage facility. 

A Griffith City Council spokesperson said the total cost of legal advice and the appeal is still unknown. 

“The total cost to Council, which includes solicitor, barrister and expert witness fees, is not yet known,” they said.

“Council have not yet been informed of any costs associated with the applicant.”

Council said due to the complex nature of the matter, it was important both sides were consulted throughout the process. 

“This particular development application has been very complex and sensitive,” they said.

“In addition to the normal due processes applied during assessment, as a measure of respect to both the applicant and objectors, additional consultation opportunities were incorporated during the assessment process.” 

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They had previously confirmed representatives of the Sikh community were present at last week’s informal mediation session. 

“The initial application was also referred to an independent hearing and assessment panel to provide a recommendation regarding the application,” they said. 

“Council will now proceed to Conciliation pursuant to s34 of the Land and Environment Court Act 1979 with Terra Ag with the intent to conciliate an outcome.”

Council and Terra Ag will progress the preparation of a planning agreement. The planning agreement will be placed on exhibition for public comment prior to its final adoption.

Former Councillor and solicitor Bill Lancaster spoke at Thursday’s council meeting. He says he feels the process has been rushed. 

“I feel like they had made their mind up … It wasn’t much of a surprise,” he said. 

Mr Lancaster says the proposition of the Thorne road site – while slightly more preferable – doesn’t ease all concerns. 

“It’s marginally better, but it doesn’t overcome the issue of developing those types of sites near residences and community places.”