Council takes two firms to court
A FINE of $12,000 and court costs of more than $30,000 was the outcome of a two-day trial of Wall’s Stanthorpe Pty Ltd brought on by the Southern Downs Regional Council (SDRC) for concrete batching at their Morgan Park site without a permit.
Magistrate Anne Thacker yesterday found Wall’s guilty with no conviction recorded in relation to unauthorised use of their property where they operated a mobile concrete batching plant on First Avenue off Kenilworth Street without a permit.
Wall’s Stanthorpe and Wall’s, Sand and Gravel owner Bob Wall took the stand yesterday to defend the charge that he was in breach of the planning scheme for a concrete batching plant.
He maintained he had the right to batch concrete on lots 37 and 38 (First Avenue) with a mobile plant used in the construction of a permanent plant on adjacent blocks 32 and 33 (Rugby Street).
Solicitor for SDRC Michael Connor said between early December 2008 and September 2009 the defendant conducted unlawful building works on the site about which he was approached by SDRC on a number of occasions.
Magistrate Thacker said she believed Mr Wall had a good grasp of what was required being in the industry for a number of years.
She wanted to send a serious message compliance with the law was important “as a benefit to the community and to the environment”.
“It is important to the whole community not just companies and businesses... the law must be respected,” Magistrate Thacker said.
The council also attempted to prove the concrete batching site was gaining a commercial interest without approval which Magistrate Thacker said she could not prove beyond reasonable doubt.
Witness Brian McQueen from concrete firm Holcim gave evidence on Thursday that he saw what he believed was concrete being taken from the First Avenue site to another building site.
“There was no perfect seam of information that the truck (Mr McQueen) observed was in fact the same truck – his evidence was not concrete in that regard,” Magistrate Thacker told the court.
In Mr Wall’s cross examination he told the court the concrete batching site on lots 37 and 38 on First Avenue provided concrete for building a plant on lots 32 and 33.
Magistrate Thacker later concluded Mr Wall was “guilty out of his own word of mouth” as he was in breach of the planning scheme.
Mr Wall told the court he was under the impression after a conversation with a council employee he was able to batch concrete on the site as long as they did not produce in excess of 200 tonnes a year under the Environmentally Relevant Authority (ERA).
“The council is not prosecuting you for any issues for the ERA – the claim is you are in breach of the planning scheme for a concrete batching plant,” Mr Connor told Mr Wall.
Magistrate Thacker fined the company $12,000 with an order to pay court costs of just over $30,000.
Mr Wall was also banned from carrying out concrete batching on lots 37 and 38 until he obtains the proper permit.
Meanwhile, the council has had another court win, in a battle with Bestbrook Mountain Resort over the selling of used vehicles from the popular tourist venue on the Cunningham Highway.
Owner Ray Vincent pleaded guilty last week in the Warwick Magistrates Court to breaching the council’s planning scheme by not having development approval to run a vehicle saleyard.
Magistrate Anne Thacker adjourned the matter to next Wednesday for final sentencing, which is expected to involve a fine.
Bestbrook and the council are also at legal loggerheads in the Planning and Environment Court of Queensland, with Mr Vincent attempting to overturn an order that he cease using part of his property for camping without approval.
Other current court matters involving the Southern Downs Regional Council and awaiting further hearing in the Supreme Court civil division include two personal injury claims made against it, with one relating to the Leyburn Sprints event in 2007.
Also proceeding through the Planning and Environment Court is an appeal by Canning Downs stud owner John Barnes against the demolition of Plumbs Chambers and ongoing action relating to camping at Ian and Sue Gordon’s property at Goomburra.
A council spokesperson declined to comment on these matters yesterday as they were still before the courts.
The council also declined to specify the costs of its court actions to ratepayers.