Greville Knight and his wife Trudy moved into Mallala 12 months ago and are happy with the country town they chose to spend retirement in.
Little did they know, however, that within a year of settling in they would have a fight on their hands to retain their scenic views and quiet lifestyle, as a developer is seeking permission to build accommodation for seasonal workers right next door to their home.
The couple live adjacent to the old Mallala hospital on Aerodrome Road, which late last year, was turned into hostel style accommodation, housing workers from Vanuatu who service the horticultural industry in the area.
They often share a cup of tea with their Vanuatuan friends on weekends.
“They are the loveliest people,” Greville said.
However, since late August of this year, Greville and his neighbours have found themselves in a tussle with Adelaide Plains Council over a proposed development that would see the small portion of land between his home and the workers’ accommodation, designated by council to be retained as ‘open space’, packed with 13 demountable buildings housing a potential 156 people.
Some residents received a brief notification from APC outlining a proposed development application by Stewart Property Trust dated August 23, giving them until September 6 to examine the development documents at council offices and respond.
Greville and his neighbour attended the council office to obtain a copy of the application, however were refused, council staff informing them they were permitted only to view the documents, restricting them from taking any photocopies or photographs, citing copyright.
“I was forced to go down to the office several times to take notes and end up with my own plan.”
It wasn’t until APC councillor, Mel Lawrence, heard about his issue on morning radio with Leon Byner, that Greville was contacted by Cr Lawrence and made aware he was, in fact, able to secure copies.
APC’s general manager of development and community, Robert Veitch, explained copyright is standard for any development application and understands the frustration of individuals who would like to examine the documents in detail.
Luckily for Greville, on this occasion the developer had made a small note that copies could be provided to interested parties.
“So I sent that comment to the mayor,” Greville said.
He then requested an extra week to make a submission outlining his opposition to the development highlighting the concern the local primary school is close by on the same road.
“It was a very formal submission, six pages worth,” he explained.
“A major concern is safety on the street in regards to speed, cars and children, the interface doesn’t work.
“Each three-bedroom demountable is designed to accommodate between three and 12 workers, with a small combined meals/living area and one split system air conditioner for the whole unit, which won’t help in summer and the CWMS (community waste management system) won’t be able to cope.”
Being a CFS firefighter, Greville has identified major safety concerns with the proposed development.
“In the plans there is no individual heating in the bedrooms or IXL tactics in the bathroom, only one single split system,” he said.
“If somebody brings in a personal bar heater into a crowded bedroom it can become a real fire safety hazard, additionally if there was a fire in one of the central units it would be quite a technical and difficult situation, as the fire trucks would have to be parked on the street.”
Greville’s biggest objection to the current proposal is the use of the block of land behind the caretaker’s residence as council originally stipulated it be maintained as open space when the developer, Liam Stewart, requested a change of land use for the hospital in order to house the seasonal workers in 2016.
“We had plans of offering to buy the block of land to turn into an orchard, but were told there was an open space requirement from council and nothing was going to happen there,” he said.
Greville has since been in contact with the developer, Liam Stewart, and questioned the legality of the area being built upon when there is an open space requirement from council.
“He said to me, because the units are transportable/demountable they can be pulled down and moved at reasonably short notice, therefore the open space is still there. Go Figure? Greville said with wide eyes.
Since submitting his lengthy objection, Greville has sought legal advice and will be represented if the need arises.
He has put an extraordinary amount of time and effort into an awareness campaign in the town.
“I certainly rallied support and got lots more people raise their objections to council,” he said.
“I’m a retired engineer, I love paperwork.”
Since receiving the representations from adjoining landowners, the developer has requested to put the application on hold for three months.
Mr Veitch explained that in the case of the developer making an amendment to the application, it will then have to go back out to public consultation once more, after which council’s development assessment panel will make a decision on the application, to either approve, refuse or defer.
“This process could possibly take us up to March or April of next year,” Mr Veitch said.
“What it means, I don’t know yet, so it is just a matter of wait and see,” Greville said.
In the meantime he is seriously considering running for council next year to, “help straighten things out a bit.”
“The only way to get on top and beat the big boys is to be on top of it, rally your resources and communicate with people,” he said.
“The biggest thing is communication.”
Developer, Liam Stewart, was contacted in relation to the development application and Greville Knight’s objection, but declined to comment.