Burringbar residents raise concerns over greenhouse noise


A BURRINGBAR family say they are being driven to the point of exhaustion from the constant humming of ventilation fans, the noise of a power generator and the constant anxiety of waiting for the completion of a second greenhouse at a neighbouring business known as Pocket Herbs & Produce on Howards Road.

Kate and Mark Paszkowski say they have been living a terrible nightmare after three years of peace and quiet only to now hear the constant sounds which they say are coming from the greenhouse site 24-hours per day.

However, the company has completely refuted those claims stating they are acting within their Tweed Shire Council approvals and Pocket Herbs owner Iain Reynolds said the relationship between the two property owners had been sour from the start.

Pocket Herbs started in early 2008, according to the company’s website, and is a hydroponic grower of Micro Greens/Baby Leaf Herbs and living specialty fresh produce which is distributed to markets and restaurants around Australia.

The business is located at 67 Howards Road, Burringbar, and is adjacent to neighbours Mr and Mrs Paszkowski who live at 75 Howards Road.

The Burringbar business includes two greenhouse operations, with the further of the two already operational and a second smaller greenhouse getting closer to being fully operational.

Mrs Paszkowski spoke to The Weekly on Tuesday, August 29, along with many of her neighbours to express their concerns with aspects of the Pocket Herbs business, which they said was creating a “major noise” issue for families to the point where Mrs Paszkowski has sought medical advice for “sleep deprivation”.

“I’ve been diagnosed with fatigue and distress from the constant sound coming from these ventilations fans, which run 24-hours per day, seven days per week, and I’m struggling to get the whirling sound out of my head, even when I’m not at home,” she said.

The family had spent the past ten years saving to afford their dream home at Burringbar, which is nearing completion, but since getting the house started the Pocket Herbs business has set up a second greenhouse which is creating further tensions between the neighbours.

Mrs Paszkowski said that she thoroughly scrutinised Pocket Herbs and has a copy of their original application back in 2014, and she felt there was no mention of mechanical fans, temperature control equipment or noise mentioned in their application to the Tweed Shire Council.

“Even a conversation with the town planner was organised and none of the noise emanating equipment was discussed,” she said.

The family which includes two children said they are fearful they are now facing the possibility that their home may be unliveable should 20 fans be installed in the second greenhouse.

Mrs Paszkowski goes on to say that should this application have been “honest” including the noise equipment (fans), the family would not have built a home here.

“None of the neighbouring properties had a chance to object and I believe the application submitted to Council is not being adhered to,” she said.

The Weekly spoke with Mr Reynolds who said he understood concerns with the ventilation fans, but he highlighted that he had replaced all the ventilation fans with reduced noise European fans, which he said were “silent and can be computer controlled”.

He also stressed he had reduced the number of fans from 21 to 17.

“I think what many people are not taking into consideration is that we’re a working farm that employees 25 local people and we’re working within the Council’s requirements,” he said.

“Where ever we have identified a problem or issue from the neighbours, we’ve attempted to address the issue and resolve it in the best possible manner, we’re not acting outside our obligations and we’re not attempting to make life harder for anyone.”

The family said they have been formally complaining to the Tweed Shire Council since 2016 when the fans were switched on.

“It has taken too long to get the council to respond to our concerns,” Mrs Paszkowski said.
Another Burringbar resident, Debra Minto, who also lives on Howards Road, wrote to The Weekly several weeks ago to flag her concerns including highlighting that the Pocket Herbs business was one of the only local operators opting for industrial fans.

“Unlike other greenhouse businesses in Burringbar, this new business relies on industrial fans to grow its produce,” Mrs Minto wrote.

“The constant circulation of air is reported to prevent moulds and fungus attacking the young plants.

“What does this mean for residents living in the surrounding rural properties? Noise impacts 24-hours a day, seven days a week.”

Mrs Minto pointed out the issue was first raised with Council in October 2016.

“That was when the mechanical ventilation system was switched on and many questions have since been put to Council about the Development Application for this business, but not a lot of answers have been forthcoming,” she said.

Mrs Minto highlighted that the Council DA approved the hours of operation for this business as 7am to 5pm, seven days a week and contains no information about mechanical ventilation or the need to operate industrial fans 24-hours a day.

“The Environmental Impact Statement contained in the DA stated that noise impacts are not anticipated.

“Council has now acknowledged that there is a breach in noise limits and intends to proceed with a noise impact assessment.

Mrs Minto said the property is zoned RU2 Rural Landscape and that Council should participate in the development application process to ensure that the rural character of the area is not degraded.

“It is great to see a new business in Burringbar creating local jobs – but not to the detriment of the surrounding neighbourhood who are currently losing sleep.”

HAVE YOUR SAY: Do you believe more sound testing is required at Howards Road, Burringbar? Send your thoughts and letters to editor@theweekly.net.au