By Mitchell Clarke
A controversial proposal to build a $13 million saleyards development in Longwarry has angered neighbouring residents, who have banded together to fight off the development.
Longwarry Saleyards Pty Ltd is proposing to build the saleyards on 22.8 hectares of farm zoned land which will see up to 120,000 cattle and 12,000 bobby calves pushed through the facility annually.
But just five metres from the development’s boundary sits some very unhappy neighbours including Melissa McCoy, whose property is located on the corner of Sand and Thornell Road.
Mrs McCoy purchased the property as her forever home almost two years ago – a place she intended to raise her young family with husband Ben.
The family claim they were never told by their real estate that such a development was possible and had they been made aware, they wouldn’t have considered settling down there.
“I pay my rates and am a part of the local community. I’m all for development within our little town however I cannot believe this proposal has even made it into council,” Mrs McCoy said.
“They don’t meet regulations for the current farming/rural/lifestyle zoning but they would if the land was changed to industrial land.
“We are known for our crisp clean air, rolling hills and natural environment – this proposal does not comply with any of those statements.”
The McCoy family and their neighbours said that noise, water and air pollution were the main concerns.
“Not only do they intend to surround my property with 3.8 metre high walls, I’ll be flooded constantly, living in a putrid smell, hear the constant cries and screaming of scared cattle and calves and be at risk of airborne diseases,” she added.
The 3.8 metre high walls are said to be a “noise and odour blocker” but according to the neighbours, it’d feel more like a prison.
Mrs McCoy said she was approached by the developers about nine months ago who wanted to buy the property, but said it came with a “list of stipulations”.
“It was an offer on the grounds that they’d buy our house if they received the planning permit and approval – it could take up to two years and would leave us in limbo,” she said.
“I have four young children so I wasn’t going to do that and we’re not in a position to move now – no one is going to buy knowing what could be built there.
“Either we sell up and lose copious amounts of money or we risk the health of our children.”
On 16 January the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) received the application which requires approval from both EPA and council.
“During the advertising and assessment period, council in its role as an authority has no stance on a planning matter until a decision is made (likely at a future council meeting),” a Baw Baw Shire Council spokesperson said.
Mrs McCoy, who has become the face of the campaign, said those rejecting the proposal weren’t against farming or farmers.
“We definitely support farmers but we just feel there is a better location for this not in amongst family homes,” she said.
“We ask consortium director Tom Gibson, a very active participant in the Upper Beaconsfield and Berwick show communities, to build the saleyard next to his family home and surround that with a 3.8 metre noise barrier.”
According to the works approval report, the site was chosen because it has direct access to an arterial road and the Princes Highway, the land is flat and is located approximately halfway between existing facilities at Pakenham and Warragul.
A spokesperson for the developers has been contacted for comment.
Community members have until Thursday 5 March to make submissions to the EPA.