Country pub in deepwater with council

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A country inn has run into trouble with the local council because it allowed travellers in caravans to park on its lawn overnight.

After innkeeper Stuart O’Neil wrote a best-selling book about mental health, he and his family bought the Deepwater Hotel in northern New South Wales.

It is located high in the hinterland on the Great Dividing Range between Ballina and Coffs Harbour, 140 km inland from the coast.

The pub is set in 8,000 square metres of grounds with plenty of green space to the rear – ideal for passing travellers to stop, have a meal and spend the night before continuing their journey.

However, Glenn Innes Severn Parish Council does not agree with this and wants the pub to submit an application to convert into a caravan park.

The council has sent the innkeeper several letters threatening legal action if he does not comply.

Mr O’Neil said the council wanted a sign at the front advertising beer and overnight parking to be removed.

“It is a grass paddock in the truest sense of the word,” he said.

“Most travelers arrive around 7 p.m. and leave again at 6 a.m.

“The city council is pursuing us because someone complained that we are just a country inn on a busy road. We offer no electricity, no water, only overnight parking.

“We do this because people feel safe and come to the pub and have a beer or something to eat.”

Mr O’Neil said that 10 kilometres down the road, the council was offering the same thing at a roadside rest area, a place where caravanners could stop and stay overnight.

“Here we support the locals and employ people in the city,” he said.

“They say we run a caravan park, but we don’t. We don’t offer any pitches with electricity.”

Mr O’Neil said that like many pubs in small towns, they rely on passing travellers to maintain their business.

“You can’t survive with 300 locals. Without the travelers, the bar closes and the town loses its bar.”

Although Glen Innes Severn Council agrees that it is beneficial to the community to provide overnight accommodation for passing travellers, this does not change the fact that the pub is legally required to submit an application for planning permission to the council.

“The rules apply across NSW,” a council spokesman said.

“The council would be happy to work with the applicant to obtain planning permission and ensure that the appropriate standards are met, as it would with any other applicant.

“The Council may take enforcement action against persons or businesses who fail to comply with NSW laws as this is the Council’s role as a regulator in NSW.”

The local council has stated that the construction of a caravan park is permitted under zoning regulations, but that it has not received an application from the hotel owner to build it.

The spokesman said the council was now “committed” to taking action against the hotel to ensure that the development complies with relevant regulations, policies and laws.

The standard Local Environment Plan (LEP) tool defines a caravan park as an area of ​​land with access to communal facilities used for the installation or accommodation of caravans or trailers and other mobile dwellings, but does not include farm accommodation.

In NSW, certain types of development required government approval; the placement of portable dwellings such as caravans and motorhomes on a property usually required council approval under the Local Government Act 1993.

Although there are limited exceptions to the authorisation requirement, the Council stated that these exceptions would not apply in the present case.

The Government Environmental Planning (Housing) Policy 2021 states that the use of land within a local government area for caravan or camping sites is prohibited and can only be done with planning permission from the council.

The regulation made special provisions for the operation of ‘primitive campsites’, which were located away from urban areas and had only limited facilities, but which nevertheless had to fulfil a number of conditions.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Planning, Housing and Infrastructure said this was Matter for the Council to determine and regulate.

“The New South Wales Government is currently reviewing the assessment and approval processes for caravan parks and manufactured housing developments,” the spokesman said.

“The New South Wales Government wants to see the region’s cities thrive and will work with relevant stakeholders throughout the review.”

Jackie Bee, founder of Country Pub Camping, said councils often lost track of what was important and how much money was being spent in the community.

“Sometimes a lot of money,” she said.

Ms Bee founded the Country Pub Camping Facebook group in 2014, which now has a large following of more than 142,000 like-minded people across Australia.

She started the group after camping at the Nindigully pub and having so much fun that she started looking for other small towns and pubs to visit.

“It was pretty difficult to find them, so I put together a list and created the Facebook group, which grew like crazy,” she said.

The site is all about supporting small communities like Deepwater in areas that might not otherwise attract many travelers.

“I could have made the page about bakeries, but not every town has a bakery, but there will be a pub,” she said.

According to Ms Bee, since caravans are now self-sufficient and well positioned, people no longer have to stay overnight in a caravan park unless they want to.

“They can stay in a pub without electricity and use their own caravan. Plus it’s a safety aspect too: they can just walk to the pub and not have to get behind the wheel later,” she said.

“It’s really about bringing people into the regional communities and engaging with them.”

John Green, Australian Hotels Association director of alcohol and policing, said regional pubs offered a Service and place to relax for the local population, travelers and grey nomads alike.

“Most bush areas are surrounded by a lot of space, so it makes sense for grey nomads and other caravanners to park there overnight and get a meal and a beer – especially when there isn’t even a caravan park in town,” he said.

“Where would you rather park your caravan at the end of a long day – in a pub area or in a caravan park?”

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