by Craig Beyers
As residential planning initiatives continue to try to curtail urban sprawl in Australian cities, sustainable infill development closer to city centres presents a significant challenge to the asphalt industry.
With residential housing now increasingly being approved for areas that once acted as buffer zones from industrial areas, the potential for complaint and conflict over emissions is increasing.
Timely investigation and strategic planning though can offer some protection for asphalt plants looking to avoid this conflict and the potential associated costly remedial or relocation works.
What we’re seeing at the state government level is that most planning now places emphasis on development and intensification of specific zones, including former industrial areas, fringe industrial areas and surplus government land.
New housing development is occurring within these defined zones, particularly around transport hubs and areas with urban-renewal potential.
These developments typically trigger a town planning approval process which attempts to seek a balance between the competing interests of existing industrial operators and housing developers.
This process though gives rise to potential complaints and damaging public relations coverage for existing asphalt facilities, and post-approval, the potential conflict can continue and we’re already seeing cases of this, whether it’s in regards to potential health effects of emissions, or when facilities seek an amendment to their operations.
Either way, the sustainability, growth and economic viability of these facilities can be compromised or hampered.
A proactive approach to protect the plant and neighbours
Taking the lead on the issue before a problem arises, and seeking out professional assessment to provide the means for strategic planning can maintain harmony with community as well as protect the commercial viability of the plant.
It enables the company to foresee potential future complaints and issues, and make production and equipment decisions to avoid them.
Over the life of an asphalt plant, decisions are made about what products to make, when to produce them, what equipment to purchase and where to place it.
Understanding how the odour emitted from the various products can influence the surrounding area provides valuable information that can inform a number of these choices and therefore minimise the potential for complaint or conflict.
As changes are made to the operation of an asphalt plant, understanding how these changes could influence the ability of the plant to operate can assist in minimising the potential for regulatory compliance issues.
There are a number of examples around Australia where a lack of understanding (often by regulators and planning authorities) of the influence of odour emissions from a plant have resulted in community complaints and regulatory involvement.
Ultimately, these external factors can lead to difficult decisions about capital upgrades and in some cases, the viability of a particular site or operation which had they been considered in advance, may have been avoided.
The key information to minimise conflict risk
A professional assessment of the plant will give management three essential pieces of information they can use to minimise emissions and therefore also minimise the risk of complaint.
Understanding what odour is being generated now and where the influence of the site extends;
How changes to production can influence odour generation;
Ability to consider odour emission as a key part of any design or capital purchase process so that plant designs, whether new or upgraded, are able to continue to operate into the future.
Seeking advice prior to changes in production and plant operations can also protect the facility from costly mistakes.