Bell Quarry planning panel to hear submissions remotely: residents object

A proposal to transport Sydney's waste through the village of Bell to fill in a disused sand quarry will now be heard on teleconference due to the coronavirus.

But residents are objecting to the move, concerned that some residents are still traumatised by losing their homes in the recent bushfires and that mobile phone coverage is unreliable in the area.

Bell Quarry Working Group spokeswoman, Kaye Whitbread, said they had registered an official objection to the teleconference "due to unreliable mobile phone service here since the December 21 fire and there are no landlines".

"People have to stand on retaining walls to get reception which certainly isn't ideal. We are also denied support of our families who had intended to come. We can't even have visitors in our homes now. We don't have the luxury of air-conditioned offices with full technology. I'll be in my car somewhere at a high spot using Bluetooth. We lodged the objection yesterday and as yet haven't been advised."

The State Government's Western Regional Planning Panel has the final say on the Bell Quarry Project and was due to sit this week in the region to consider its merits. The public's spoken submissions will now all be heard on April 6 and a decision made seven days later.

The proposal has received strong objections from Blue Mountains, Hawkesbury and Lithgow Councils, as well as the Environment Protection Authority. The 9.5 hectare quarry is located in the upper reaches of the Wollangambe River, about 10 kilometres east of Lithgow.

The Environment Protection Authority has recommended refusing the development application before Lithgow Council and said it "will have unacceptable environmental impacts on the adjoining Blue Mountains National Park and the Wollangambe and Colo River systems".

"Since the EPA considers that the project poses an unacceptable risk of water pollution to a World Heritage Area and declared wild river catchment, the EPA does not support the project and recommends that the project be refused," their submission said.

Access is via the narrow Sandham Road, Bell and residents have grave concerns. The proposal is that 140,000 tonnes of waste material will be transported each year on the Great Western Highway to Mount Victoria and Darling Causeway to Bell - a total of 1.5 million cubic metres of fill, six days a week, for 15 years. Residents and environmentalists are also concerned about potential damage to the World Heritage area from weeds or other contaminants in the waste.

Blue Mountains Councillor Kerry Brown said the 74 movements a day of 'truck and dog' trailers will be a nightmare for Bell and impact the entire Mountains with the added trucks thundering up the highway and along the Darling Causeway.

"This D/A ... shifts Sydney development costs onto us and the natural environment. Nature is rehabilitating the quarry anyway. 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."

Ms Whitbread is a former truck owner-driver whose home lies nine metres off Sandham Road and just four kilometres from the quarry. She has called the plan "diabolical" and does not believe the trucked fill will be clean, due to the length of the journey from Sydney and the fuel cost for a heavy load.

The D/A has been on exhibition with Lithgow Council this year and more than 470 public submissions have been received. No submissions supported it.

A Planning Panel spokeswoman said they chose the teleconference when the virus made the meeting no longer safe this month. She said it was considered a more accessible and reliable method than video technology.

Register to speak or listen to the Joint Planning Panel by contacting the secretariat on enquiry@planningpanels.nsw.gov.au or 8217 2060. A maximum of 250 can be on the teleconference and if there is greater interest, two sessions will run.