Lismore council crushes plans for new retreat centre

PLANS for a stress therapy retreat centre at Lindendale have been scuttled by Lismore City Council who last night voted 5-4 to reject the proposal.

The council received 56 objections to plans to change the usage of a property at 273 Lindendale Rd from a recreational health farm to a "community facility".

The plans by The Buttery - which has successfully operated a drug and alcohol rehab facility on Bangalow Rd at Binna Burra -would have allowed up to 10 people to stay for between four and six weeks for group therapy retreats designed to prevent burnout and depression.

The Lismore City Council chambers were packed with opponents to the application, with residents citing potential impacts those attending the centre would have on the well-being of locals, including children.

After an early motion by Councillor Glenys Ritchie to endorse the proposal was lost, Lismore councillor Greg Bennett led a motion to reject it.

Cr Bennett said the the council had received conflicting legal advice from both the proponent and opponents due to different interpretations of the Planning Act, but on balance, the facility was deemed incompatible with the rural zoning of the area.

The area was classified as State Significant Farmland and as a result all nearby agricultural uses such as macadamia farming and cattle grazing and herding required buffers of sevel hundred metres.

"Basically it's a non-agricultural development sitting in a rural zone and the agricultural stuff takes precedence and so the development shouldn't be approved for that reason," Cr Bennett said.

"(Also) When you look at the kind of people attending the facility… the last thing they are going to want is a dehusking plant humming away in the background or cattle in a cattle yard."

"Overwhelmingly the local community didn't want it, so that was another reason."

"It could easily have gone a different way."

The Lindendale property was previously used as a midwifery centre but has not been used for any group accomodation in several years.

The Buttery had countered local fears by arguing it had a strict screening process of all clients and the use of the facility was quite different to its Binna Burra drug and alcohol rehab centre.

It also noted it had no history of such problems at Binna Burra.

Two Country Labor councillors were absent from the vote.

Mayor Jenny Dowell left the chamber after declaring two potential conflicts of interest in relation to the application - one a friendship with an neighbour of the site who had lodged a submission against it, and the other that she had attended an exclusive fundraising event for The Buttery in the past.

Fellow Country Labour councillor Isaac Smith was away.

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