Wakefield Park raceway will press ahead with court action despite conditional approval of its development plans.
Goulburn Mulwaree Council granted the approval subject to more than 90 conditions at its meeting on Tuesday night. It came after a total nine hours' debate spread across two meetings, including one on June 22. In contrast to that packed forum, only about nine people turned up on Tuesday after the council urged people to watch the webcast instead.
It also followed Wakefield Park's announcement on Monday that it would mount NSW Land and Environment Court action over the council's "deemed refusal" of its DA. This was on the basis planners took more than 42 days to complete assessment.
Tuesday's meeting proceeded regardless. General manager Warwick Bennett said the council still had to form a position for the court.
Five out of nine councillors endorsed his recommendation to conditionally approve the DA. It imposes a colour-coded scale of noise limits and number of days on which they apply.
The noisiest, dubbed the red category, would be 95 decibels averaged across 15 minutes on a maximum 50 days a year. This would transition to 30 by year three.
By the end of the same term, there would be another 100 days not to exceed 85 decibels in the amber category.
Under green, to start on January 1, 2022, there would be 112 days maximum not exceeding 75dB(A), increasing to 157 days by January, 2024. The blue category allows for a minimum 76 days, not exceeding 75 decibels.
The conditions also outlined that the first weekend of each month and one day per week must not exceed 75 dB(A) to give residents "relief". Overall, the raceway would operate on 363 days a year.
In addition, maximum noise levels were set for five of the nearest residences.
Councillors eventually only made minor changes to Mr Bennett's proposed categories. Despite lengthy discussion, two amendments to increase the number of "noisier days" were lost.
In the end, Mayor Bob Kirk, Sam Rowland, Alfie Walker, Carol James and Denzil Sturgiss voted for the motion, while Crs Margaret O'Neill, Andrew Banfield and Peter Walker were against.
The raceway applied last September to build new infrastructure, including a pit-lane building and broaden its offerings at the Braidwood Road facility. It also wanted to cement the terms of a 2020 noise prevention notice, which followed noise complaints from neighbours.
Deputy Mayor Peter Walker unsuccessfully moved to increase the number of noisy days. He said while economic viability wasn't a planning consideration, the facility's financial contribution to the economy should be taken into account. He wanted 12 days of "unlimited noise" to allow four three-day marquee events, such as the Superbikes.
"On just one day this event attracts about 6000 people, which is beneficial to the town," he said after the meeting.
"I saw it as an option because I think transitioning Wakefield to 30 days a year of 95dB(A) could be very detrimental," he said.
"I've never seen a recommendation where you wind a business down to that level. I've always thought you were better off promoting and assisting business...I think as it is we've probably knocked it on the head."
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Cr Walker said he recognised the need for the raceway to comply with noise limits but believed this could have been "a way forward."
Crs Alfie Walker and Leah Ferrara also sought to increase noisier operating days but did not win support.
Cr Sam Rowland wasn't budging.
He argued that Wakefield Park had "made it abundantly clear" that it wouldn't accept anything less than the operating schedule included in a 2020 noise prevention notice. Nor had they requested the changes councillors were advocating. Mr Bennett told the meeting that in his opinion the facility had not made great progress towards a quieter operation, as promised.
"That is consistent with the way they have approached this process," Cr Rowland said.
"I'm incredibly disappointed that Wakefield Park has sought to deny elected representatives a say on the DA. What they did yesterday in taking this to court is indicative of the way they have treated us and residents with contempt."
The council revoked the noise prevention notice on Tuesday and proposed a new one reflecting the colour-coded categories
After the meeting, Wakefield's operations manager Dean Chapman said the decision didn't change anything in regard to court action, which was filed on Monday.
"(The decision) justifies the reasons for our actions in the past 24 hours," he said.
"I believe we have been quite honest in what those proposed conditions would mean for our business. A lot of positives and negatives were put up in the debate but they wouldn't give Wakefield Park a future and that's what we're trying to do."
Mr Chapman said Wakefield Park didn't want to go to court. It was a time-consuming and "expensive exercise" but he felt it was the only way to get a "fair result."
Resident Jane Reardon said while the conditions didn't reflect everything neighbours had asked, they were largely based on their feedback.
"It's what we're prepared to live with," she said.
Mrs Reardon was pleased the recommended operating schedule wasn't changed because in her view, noise at residences was a key consideration. She and other residents studied the raceway's marquee events and came up with a compromise that still ensured economic viability, she said.
Mr Bennett told The Post he was not surprised by the court action but it had come earlier than expected.
"We always knew it would end up in the Land and Environment Court," he said.
"It's a difficult one. The council is supportive of Wakefield Park and believes its contribution to the economy is very positive.
"No submitter has ever asked for it to be closed down. We just need Wakefield Park to have more respect for its neighbours...We'll defend whatever comes out of the (Tuesday's) meeting."
The GM described the court action as "positive" because it meant all the information would have to be supplied.
"The court won't allow fuzzing of the information. It will want it to be clear, concise and factual and will only accept evidence as opposed to opinion," he said.
Mr Bennett was due to meet the council's legal representatives on Wednesday to gain an idea of costs. However he said these would be reduced because the council had made a decision on the DA and would not have to lodge comprehensive facts and contentions to the court.
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