Tamworth's outer suburb of Kingswood has been primed to support the region's rapidly expanding equine industry, whether residents want to or not.
At council's latest meeting, councillors granted approval for a "contentious" expansion of Koobah Performance Horses (KPH), a horse training and equine events facility south of Tamworth that neighbours say will "destroy the suburb's amenity" with noise, lights, and dust.
One Kingswood resident even commissioned his own independent review of the proposed expansion's environmental impacts, which he said found "many shortcomings and incorrect information" in the facility's development application (DA) approved by council.
"The very nature of the size, scale, and proximity of this site to neighbouring residential properties means there are no conditions that can be imposed on the expansion of the horse facility to minimise conflict," the resident said.
"Councillors have already demonstrated over recent years it doesn't have the resources or power to enforce restrictions placed on the site, because council has received endless complaints about the site and nothing has ever been done about them."
KPH's original DA was granted in 2013 for constructing on-site accommodation units, signage installation, the use of a shed for amenities, and land use for a horse training facility.
It also included provisions for horse training and campdrafting clinics, an annual horse sale, and various events that could involve hundreds of spectators, heavy vehicles, and cattle.
But the newly-approved DA will allow for the expansion of the existing horse training facility, as well as retroactively granting approval for buildings constructed without council's consent, a move which further angered residents.
"The owner of this site has a long history of holding unapproved events and building unapproved structures on this site," one resident said at the council meeting.
Another resident, Philip Powell, also mentioned the "long history of putting up structures without a DA".
"If council approves this development, it's basically giving Kingswood and Tamworth residents the green light to put up structures on their properties whenever they see fit without a DA and then beg forgiveness afterwards," Mr Powell said.
"I'm not sure if this is the message council would like to send, but there appears to be no penalties imposed by council for these actions."
Koobah Performance Horses principal Roger Grant was seen at the council meeting shaking his head as the residents spoke.
Mr Grant was approached for comment.
Despite the residents' concerns, councillors decided not only to approve the DA, but to remove a restriction on the facility's biggest campdraft events.
The restriction would've made it easy for council to withdraw consent if the facility did not adhere to the DA's 48 conditions of approval, designed to mitigate noise, manage dust emissions, and reduce traffic disruption from the potential development.
But councillors were worried about the message the stipulation, if kept in, would send to other future developers.
"I think it sends a difficult message back to people wishing to invest in our region, in particular in regards to controversial developments. I believe the conditions of consent address the issues that have been raised by the concerned people here tonight," Cr Bede Burke said.
Cr Mark Rodda was the only councillor to stand against the development, though councillors Marc Sutherland and Brooke Southwell also voted in favour of keeping the restriction on the large campdraft events.
"I received many calls from frustrated residents imploring me to come out, particularly one day a few years ago, to hear the noise emanating from the site myself and I did. It was significant," Cr Rodda said.
"When I raised the issue with the general manager at the time, I received what I felt was an indifferent response that the council will deal with the problem next time. Well, now is the next time."
But other councillors felt differently.
"This is the hardest thing that we do, when we get a development application like this that is contentious, but we have talked it at length with our staff and the councillors and there's a lot of positives," Cr Brooke Southwell said.
"The economic benefit to our region is clear. It's very much in line with our equestrian industry that we're currently building up and compliments our equine centre quite nicely."
Cr Southwell also said the council has been meeting with the proponent and trusts he will stick to the conditions and comply with the noise regulations, including a 10pm curfew.
The DA allows KPH to host up to 10 private clinics, 10 Tamworth Team Penning events, three campdraft events, three guest horse training events, three special events - i.e. dog trials and other equestrian events - two outside hire events, and one annual horse sale per year.
These events are expected to bring hundreds of spectators, up to 79 heavy vehicles, and more than 1000 cattle at a time depending on the event.
A report prepared for council noted that NSW Police raised no objections to the proposed development, providing that council places conditions in the consent to address noise and traffic management.
One of the nearly 50 conditions imposed on the development allows Tamworth council to require a Noise Validation Assessment at any time, should it receive valid noise-related complaints.
The day after the council meeting, mayor Russell Webb told the Leader the conditions placed on the approval should be enough to manage noise and odour, and that council will take any residents' complaints "very seriously".
"One of the things we did in 2009 when we opened the equine centre south of the city was that we need two or three other facilities to support smaller events to support the industry, and this development does just that," Cr Webb said.
The subject land is located on the south-western side of Kingswood and is about 60 hectares in size.
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