Questions for Council over chicken poo project

Locality Plan for proposed Mt Cotton chicken litter power project

Locality Plan for proposed Mt Cotton chicken litter power project (click to enlarge)

Should Redland City Council grant more time for development of the proposed Mt Cotton chicken poo power project?

The original development approval was granted more than seven years ago but it appears that nothing has happened. People living close to the project site remain concerned about potential noise and emissions which could impact on them if the project were to happen.

This issue is on the agenda for the Council’s meeting on Wednesday 6 May. The officers’ report (Item 11.3.3) recommends that the Council grant an 18 months extension, as requested by the project proponent, Cleveland Power Pty Ltd.

UPDATE On 6 May the Council voted to grant an 18 month extension. See more at the end of this article.

Timeline

  • An application to develop a power station fuelled with biomass (chicken litter) was lodged with Council in June 2004
  • The Council approved the development application in March 2007 but it was appealed by residents
  • The Planning and Environment Court confirmed the approval (for four years) on 7 November 2007
  • On 7 November 2011 the developer requested an extension for four years which the Council refused.
  • The developer appealed the Council decision and on 20 March 2013 was awarded an extension, to 20 March 2015
  • On 20 March 2015 the developer requested a further 18 months extension, which the Council is considering

What is the developer doing?

Community consultation in the Redlands

Scratching around?

This project is taking a long time to achieve completion. On two occasions (7 November 2011 and 20 March 2015) an extension to the development approval has been sought on the final day of the period for development. What is the point of stipulating a period for development if it is not going to be enforced? Use it or lose it!

Information on the developer’s website about the project’s progress is incorrect. The latest update (September 2013) optimistically advises that:

At this stage we expect to begin construction in February [2013] and have the plant completed by 2014 with it going on line and supplying power to the grid by early 2015.

The officers’ report to Council includes this advice as to why the project has been unable to achieve completion within the stipulated period:

The applicant states that these Biomass Power Plants are well established in Europe and North America, but that they remain something of a novelty in Australia. That fact has contributed to the difficulties in obtaining funding in Australia to pursue the development approval, and funding has been sought offshore. It has been taking longer than expected to seek the relevant funding, hence this second request for an extension to the relevant period. The applicant states that they executed a funding agreement in February 2014, and access to the funds is now anticipated.

So funding has been arranged for more than 12 months but there is little evidence of the project progressing.

It is not unusual for projects to experience delays but it is good practice for project developers to keep stakeholders well informed about the timing of project work. The lack of information about the progress of this project raises questions about the capability of the project developer and the viability of this project. The Council should require a detailed work schedule from the developer and be satisfied that there is a well justified prospect of project completion before granting any further extensions.

What does the community think?

The community has been opposed to this project. The officers’ report says: “Three hundred and thirty-three (333) submissions were received on the original development application. Three hundred and thirty-two (332) of these submissions were objections to the proposal.”

Since then, many more people now live in and around the area proposed for this development. The officers’ report says that if the developer is required to resubmit his application it is likely that a large number of submissions would be received. Is this a problem?

We have recently seen evidence of how keen the current Council is to listen to people. For instance, at the last Council meeting a change to local laws about riding horses in public places was made after Council received a form submission from just 25 people (presumably horse riders), as discussed in Councillors horse around on local laws.

So why do officers recommend approval of the extension?

In essence, the officers are saying that the proposed project complies with relevant planning rules. In particular, the project is not located in the Redland City urban footprint; or as the officers put it:

The site is located within the Regional Landscape and Rural Production Area in the SEQ Regional Plan 2009-2031. Within this designation, “urban activities” are heavily discouraged and are required to demonstrate locational requirements and overriding need for the development in the public interest.

Interestingly, the proposed Shoreline residential project is also in Redland City’s Regional Landscape and Rural Production Area.

The officers’ report suggests that if the developer had to submit a new application, no new matters would be raised. This is presumptuous. It is over ten years since the original application was submitted. There is every possibility that the project could be usefully reassessed with the benefit of additional knowledge about technology, environmental and health issues. Road traffic issues are more contentious now than when the project was originally put forward.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Free_Range_Hens_-_geograph.org.uk_-_342791.jpg

Free range chickens – commercial scale

Other aspects of the project could have changed materially in ten years. For example, there has been a major shift in consumer sentiment towards free range chicken production, accredited to standards such as FREPA and RSPCA. How will this affect the proposed project’s long term access to chicken litter?

The energy market has also experience major changes over the past decade, as have government policies on climate change, carbon emissions and renewable energy.

 While the officers were happy to repeat the developer’s contention that “these Biomass Power Plants are well established in Europe and North America” the report to Council includes no information about increasing environmental concerns about heavy metals and dioxins, as documented  by Energy Justice Network.

What should the Council do?

Should the Council tick off the officers’ report and give the Mt Cotton chicken poo power project yet another extension?

Or should Council refuse the application for an extension. This would mean that a new impact assessable development application would have to be submitted if the developer is serious about the project.

Councillors should consider if the developer is at all serious about this project. A serious project developer would be able to provide a detailed and convincing work plan to achieve project completion by the date requested.

Even more importantly, has the developer earned a social licence to operate? The developer has been promoting the project for more than a decade but there is no evidence of community acceptance. If the project had been properly managed, there would be a well documented process of effective community liaison and evidence of community support.

Let your Councillor know what you think. Here are their contact details.

More about chickens?

Coming home to roost

Redlands2030 – 4 May 2015

Update  10 May 2015

On 6 May Council voted to grant Cleveland Power Pty Ltd an 18 month extension. The vote was 6-5 with councillors Bishop, Boglary, Elliott, Ogilvie and Talty voting against the extension.

During the Council Meeting the issue of poor communication was raised. In his summing up before the vote was taken Cr Beard described the project proponent’s communication with the community as “less than satisfactory” and “misleading”.

Cr Ogilvie proposed that Council obtain external legal advice about the prospects for Council withstanding a threatened legal challenge if council refused the extension. The majority of councillors did not support doing this.

Some question that should be clarified going forwards include:

  • Why did Council not put forward any arguments in support of its refusal of an extension during the 2013 court case?
  • What steps is Council taking to improve the planning scheme via City Plan 2015 to minimise the risk of residents being distressed by incompatible land use projects

 

 

Please note: Offensive or off-topic comments will be deleted. If offended by any published comment please email thereporter@redlands2030.net

8 thoughts on “Questions for Council over chicken poo project

  1. I objected initially on the Poo Project when made aware of it. My wife and I retired to Mount Cotton late 2011. Our first thought was for the children at the Mount Cotton School and then the expected development in Mount Cotton itself. I am all for progress, but this borders on ignorance and an “I’m all right Jack” attitude. Just wondering the Councillors who supported this if their children go to the MC School, or more importantly, where do they live – obviously not in the immediate area. Council needs to find some spine on this issue because whether they like it or not, the objections were steam-rolled by the LNP Government who just flexed their muscle. Not Happy with the Redland Council if this goes ahead.
    Alan Wood – Mount Cotton Resident.

    • Alan this has been a very stressful time for many residents knowing the implications. No Councillors has a child at the school but the Mayor and Cr Talty live in Mt Cotton, they only have to go online and read the facts from all over the world, Doctors and Health centres concerns on air quality in the UK and USA in particular.
      In 2011 the extension was recommended by Council staff to be refused and the council at the time supported that recommendation but in 2012 there was an election with the new council led by Mayor Williams. The developer appealed the refusal and it went to Court in 2013, the council was told at the last General meeting that they had lost the appeal and it costs ratepayers $340,000 but I have since read the court documents and it shows that Council officers didnt defend the refusal they rolled over and agreed with the developer. So our question is how do they justify $340,000 and who gave direction to Council staff to not defend the refusal

  2. Another writer has raised a valid point regarding the fortuitous opportunity to re-examine the environmental and technical factors associated with such industries. Indeed, we must now have a vast amount of information, likely not available ten years ago when this development was first mooted, which ought to be considered in any decision to approve this development. Show me the evidence, based on scientific rigour, that this industry poses no risk to our children, our animals and our beautiful environment and I will relent. Otherwise, I will expect the councillors who supported this application and the developers who are flouting the ‘rules’ of deadline adherence to show some citizenship and character by withdrawing this contentious proposal.

  3. We need some honest “committed to the community” candidates to contest the development industries’ preferred councilors and mayor at the next election, and bring back credibility to council decisions.

  4. It will be a dark day if Mayor Williams and her sheep vote to allow another extension to Cleveland Power. In 2011 the Council staff wrote a report recommending refusal and the Council supported the refusal, those same reasons are still relevant today, nothing has changed. The air quality and noise are still the same. But there are over 1,800 new residents in Mt Cotton who know nothing about what is going to be put on their doorstep.
    When the developer appealed the 2011 refusal, I sat in the court with other Redland residents and witnessed the legal representatives paid by Council not open their mouth. There was no defence of the Council’s refusal, there was nothing, just a nod.
    I noticed that the reason for the extension is that Darwalla has lost an egg contract, wow, good reason to extend.
    The Council must understand 1,800 residents of Mt Cotton and the new parents and children at Mt Cotton School know nothing of this incinerator. This was lodged in 2005 and much has changed since then, more information has come to light from around the world about Chicken manure incinerators. Don’t believe me, go onto the web and type in Chicken manure Incinerators. People will be shocked.
    One of the residents who was a very vocal objector, today said “I wish they would go ahead and build the incinerator and go broke doing it”
    Today I was at a meeting with lots of people some new residents from Mt Cotton, they didn’t have clue about the incinerator. So what has Cr Talty been doing?

    I read on the Cleveland Power web page that they have a community meeting held regularly. It seems thatCr Talty is the Community Laison person for the developer, wonder what that achieves. Is this a conflict of interest??????

  5. What is the point of a development application having a time limit granted by the Planning court, only to be extended once again from the original approval in 2005 by officers of the Council on flimsy reasons by the developer? Well it seems that the Officials in recommending yet again more time really believe that the reasons have substance. Well what are the reasons?
    Darwella lost an egg contract – will they get it back? Why is it crucial to the development? Was it in the original proposal?
    What impact does the Newman Government change to electricity rebates have on the viability of the development? Well it is obvious the grid will not pay Cleveland Power for so called green electricity at the same rate as back in 2005 that the project was based on, so ask yourself will a future government pay CP the rate that was in force in 2005 – the simple answer is unlikely, therefore the viability of the project must be re assessed – not by the officers but by the court to see if the reason given is viable or a death knell to the aspirations of CP.
    Then reasons about equipment; that is contrary to their own statements that the rotary kiln was stored Off-site, is that not a false statement to the Council? So surely all the reasons given are based on inaccuracies and the Council should reject the application on the basis of false and misleading reasons.
    How long can a developer keep an application alive before the council actually says Enough you should have built this years ago, we have run out of patience.
    If CP wish to bring a new application then the Council should charge a reasonable cost for an evaluation based on 2015 conditions not just approve something that was dreamt up in 2004

  6. No, I don’t think an extension should be granted, the Redlands has grown considerably over the last 7 years with more planned. This council needs to start listening to it’s constituents. There is a movement out here, people are fed up with this current council and are looking at ways to fight the current trend of development at any cost to both the environment and the residents quality of life.

  7. Thank you for raising this.
    A real test for whether Councillors listen to their constituents or understand that what appears to be a simple extension of time skirts around the fact that emissions here are the problem.
    I seem to remember that a community group took this to court to challenge that very point for the Mt Cotton residents. Poor residents and kids and teachers at the school! Let alone the Leslie Harrison dam for the water supply. The court action had some good evidence on emissions ready but apparently couldn’t lead it and got done like a dinner with costs awarded against them according to the paper. There seemed to be a view , even from the politicians that when things get burnt they disappear completely.
    Given what’s happening to Adani where they didn’t even lead an expert witness on financial viability in the current Land Court case, your article makes one think that generalities have been the order of the day on the biomass as well. Difficult to pass scrutiny if on-selling.
    So, will councillors be voting for financial viability for the company or call for a new application? (A new application would surely clear the air for the existing company or new owner)

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