Lithgow council asked: delay Bell Quarry D/A exhibition period

A proposal before Lithgow Council to develop Bell Quarry at Clarence is a “lose lose” situation for the Blue Mountains and Lithgow, according to Greens candidate for the state seat of the Blue Mountains, Kingsley Liu.

The quarry is located in the upper reaches of the Wollangambe River, about 10 kilometres east of Lithgow. Development risks contaminating that river, Blue Mountains councillor Kerry Brown, said.

Access is via Sandham Road, Bell, and the residents have grave concerns about the plan. The proposal is that 140,000 tonnes of waste material will be transported annually via the Great Western Highway to Mount Victoria and Darling Causeway to Bell – a total of 1.5 million cubic metres of fill from major Sydney infrastructure projects, six days a week, over the next 15 years.

The D/A with environmental impact statement for Bell Quarry, is now on exhibition with Lithgow Council until February 18. 

“This private moneymaking exercise is a lose-lose for the Blue Mountains and Lithgow,” Mr Liu said. 

“The councils of Blue Mountains and Lithgow are responsible and accountable for a thorough and rigorous defence of its precious environment assets. Both councils need to make submissions against the D/A (development application) to the Regional Planning Panel.” 

Concerned residents: Sean Butler, Kaye Whitbread, Hope Fletcher and Nicola Madden (front) and fellow residents on Sandham Road, Bell. Newnes Junction village is located in Lithgow council area, but the site can only be accessed by using Sandham Road from Bell to the quarry.

Concerned residents: Sean Butler, Kaye Whitbread, Hope Fletcher and Nicola Madden (front) and fellow residents on Sandham Road, Bell. Newnes Junction village is located in Lithgow council area, but the site can only be accessed by using Sandham Road from Bell to the quarry.

At the January 29 Blue Mountains council meeting, Greens councillor Kerry Brown sought that council write to Lithgow’s mayor and general manager to extend the exhibition period until March 4. This would give Blue Mountains Council and its residents “who will be more severely impacted by the project than Lithgow residents” time to prepare submissions, she said. Cr Brown also asked that council seek a report on the DA from Lithgow Council at the next Blue Mountains council meeting.

“The 74 movements a day of 'truck and dog’ trailers will be a nightmare for Bell and will impact the entire Mountains with the added trucks thundering up the Great Western Highway and along the Darling Causeway,” Cr Brown said.

"This D/A … shifts Sydney development costs onto us and the natural environment. It’s a precedent we must not allow to be set. Nature is rehabilitating the quarry anyway. Local residents report [seeing] wallabies, water birds and water dragons … dumping Sydney’s waste in this quarry will reverse this and risks yet again contaminating the wild Wollangambe River and ultimately the Nepean-Hawkesbury systems.”

Cr Brown said during the 2013 fires, Bell was saved by the water in that quarry, with the Rural Fire Service using it as a dam for its fire-fighting helicopters.

Meanwhile a public meeting was held last week at Monkey Creek Cafe in Dargan to discuss the proposal.

Residents from  Bell, Dargan, Newnes Junction, Mt Victoria and Blackheath, as well as Blue Mountains Conservation Society members and Lithgow councillors and former mayors Stephen Lesslie and Maree Statham, attended the January 28 meeting. Mr Lesslie, is on the Western Regional Planning Panel that will consider the DA but did not respond to a request for comment by the Gazette.

Former truck driver, Mrs Kaye Whitbread, whose home lies nine metres off Sandham Road and just four kilometres from the quarry, has called the plan “diabolical”.

“The dust [from the trucks] with us all on tank water concerns me … the water and noise pollution concerns are huge,” Mrs Whitbread said.

“Why should my lifestyle be compromised because people in Sydney end up with major building projects and modern conveniences and I end up with all their rubbish and they spoil my lifestyle.”

Another resident, Morgan Boehringer of Dargan said: ”My immediate concern is driving my eight-year-old son back and forth to school along the Darling Causeway which is already quite a dangerous road.”

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Other issues that concern the residents include: 

  • The cleanliness of the fill, whether it contains asbestos and how this will be monitored
  • The safety of the school bus having to negotiate the entire length of Sandham Road to Newnes Junction twice daily
  • The noise generated by trucks using Sandham Road from Bell to the quarry
  • Will the dust generated by trucks affect properties along Sandham Road, the Moneky Creek Cafe and Gallery, Hatters’ Hideout B&B, and the homes along Bells Line of Road from Monkey Creek Cafe to the Clarence Cuttings at the eastern Newnes Junction? 
  • Dust and noise generated by trucks and machinery
  • The safety of bushwalkers on Sandham Road, four-wheel drive and motor bike enthusiasts
  • The effect that this will have on property prices
  • Road is the width of 1.5 cars and will struggle with 42.5 tonne trucks.

The Blue Mountains City Council matter was passed unanimously.

Lithgow Council has agreed to delay the development application public inspection process until March 20.  It is available at council’s administration centre, 180 Mort Street at Lithgow.