Sawmillers march after development refusal
TIMBER milling duo, John and Jason Toms were fuming after Clarence Valley Council refused a development application to relocate their family-owned sawmill to Coutts Crossing yesterday. The Toms family will ask its professional service group GHD to engage barristers to carry out their threat to take the matter the Land and Environment Court, said John Toms. It's an exercise John Toms said result in the Clarence Valley Council's ruling being overturned, but not without a hefty personal cost to the Toms Family in the meantime. "Earlier they were all for us, I think it's a political issue," John Toms said. Councillor Chris Gulaptis argued for the Toms' development to be approved and he was supported by councillor Jim Simmons. But Cr Gulaptis faced an onslaught of opposition from councillors Shirley Adams, Kerry Lloyd and Mayor Ian Tiley. Cr Williamson did not vote due to a pecuniary interest, and Cr Terry Flanagan was absent. "It's a permissible activity in the area; the applicant has worked with council staff arduously to meet all its requirements," Cr Gulaptis said. Cr Adams said while she was a great supporter of the timber industry, the matter had come before council before and she opposed it. "I believe that this development is not right in this area. Sawmills should be in an industrial area," Cr Adams said. "I'm strongly against the development in this beautiful environmental area, and I'm not agreeing." The Maclean Council Chambers public gallery was brimming with sawmill workers concerned for their future livelihoods. All 12 sawmill employees, side-by-side with the Toms family, stormed out when council voted against the proposal. Following the meeting, mayor Ian Tiley said it was the Toms' prerogative to take the matter the Land and Environment Court but he maintained that council had made the right 'judgment' to refuse the application. He admitted that council always had the option of rescinding its motions at any time, but denied this was council's intension. The issue has caused the Toms family and its employee's considerable stress and a financial burden of $100,000 in development applications costs so far.