South Africa council confuses farm equipment with ‘garbage’, court says


A South Australian council has failed to convince a court that a farmer has turned part of his farm into a dumping ground – admitting that much of the ‘junk’ could be used for agriculture.

Alexandrina Council argued that Clayton Bay horticulturalist Nigel Thorpe violated the Development Act by changing the use of his property from “general farming” to “general farming” and dump(Emphasis added) without development approval.

The board’s development compliance officer – identified only as Mr Hill – told the environment, resources and development court that he had inspected the Thorpe property on several occasions between 2013 and 2018 and that much of the material he observed there “was of no use to a general farm operation.”

But in cross-examination, Hill conceded that many items on the property “could generally be found on a farm.”

He also admitted that he had no farming expertise and accepted that farmers often stocked the types of items Thorpe kept on his land.

The council’s own request to the court, which asked him to force Thorpe to remove a series of items from his property to remedy his alleged violation of the law, listed “various pieces of farm machinery” among the items he wished to remove. .

Thorpe told the court he had grown potatoes, hay, oats and barley and had grazed cattle on his property several times since the early 1980s.

In written submissions to the court, he described a range of equipment he kept in the field and used for irrigated horticulture, grain cultivation, grazing and hay production, as well as materials which he kept for use as silos, drinkers, animal shelters and boreholes. .

Judge Jack Costello found that Thorpe had brought “various farm equipment, vehicles and miscellaneous equipment” to the property over a period of several years and that “a substantial portion” of these materials had been or could be used. in the future. , for agricultural activities – although some of the items may have survived their use.

“I have to point out that while, at least in the eyes of some, the way in which various materials are arranged on the ground can make the ground unsightly, the demand in question is not about the issues of visual appeal, but rather the s ‘there has been an illegal change in the use of the land,’ wrote Costello in his judgment, released last week.

“The current legal use of the land is and continues to be that of general agriculture. Field materials, which are not of general agricultural use, either by themselves or in conjunction with agricultural use, are not of a level or of such nature as to constitute a dumping ground.

“The Council has not proven, on a balance of probabilities, that Mr. Thorpe changed the existing legal use from general agriculture to general agriculture and scrap.”

The judge also found that it was impossible to know precisely how much of the material kept on the property could possibly be used for farming.

A council spokesperson said Daily this morning that the council “recognizes the judgment in the Thorpe case and is currently considering its options before making any further comments.”

Minutes of a meeting of Alexandrina’s Council, available online, show that the city council unanimously rejected last June a request from Thorne, filed in early 2016, for the “retrospective placement of 13 shipping containers” on the same property.

These minutes indicate that while Thorpe’s request was “not considered to be in serious contradiction with the Alexandrina Council’s development plan,” the sporadic placement of shipping containers on the land, located in a conservation area, represented an “unacceptable visual amenity impact” and was therefore rejected.

You can read the full court judgment here.

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