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Council rejects sauna at Aussie beach over 'offensive odour'

It was designed as a sanctuary for locals, but one Aussie council has blocked it from operation.

The operator of a portable sauna business who tried to set up shop at a popular beachside spot said it's a "double standard" council knocked back his proposal, which was rejected over fears it would emit an “offensive odour and smoke”.

Rob Dempster-Smith, who owns and founded mobile sauna Cedar & Salt, said he's planning a dispute against Sydney's Northern Beaches Council after he was stopped from trading along Curl Curl Beach, north of Manly, due to the potential environmental impacts.

According to council, the business could cause unacceptable “air pollution” in the area due to the use of wood to heat the Finnish-style sauna. But Dempster-Smith claims the materials used are carbon-neutral, that only exude smoke for a maximum of five minutes while it heats.

Northern Beaches Council accused of double standard for rejecting sauna business

He's further accused council of a "double standard" for axing his proposal, given the "40 to 50 wood-fired food places operating in the area".

Cedar & Salt Sauna.
Northern Beaches Council has rejected a local sauna business, Cedar & Salt, from operating at Curl Curl Beach. Source: Cedar & Salt.

“The idea is to combine an ocean swim and then come into the sauna afterwards as a way of combining wellness and nature,” Dempster-Smith, who spent $50,000 fitting out the sauna, told The Manly Daily.

“We’d go there for sunrise then leave before most of the crowds arrive, and then come back around 6pm for sunset sessions. But unfortunately we’ve come up against some serious red tape issues.”

Smoke 'could be toxic', council says

Northern Beaches council said in their assessment that "wood smoke contains noxious gases" including "carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, and organic compounds" that may be toxic or carcinogenic.

“It also causes particle pollution, which can be seen as a brown atmospheric haze on still, cool, winter mornings," council said. “Not only are there environmental concerns regarding the smoke, but this type of commercial use requires specific authorisation...as well as possibly needing an environmental assessment."

In a bid to get his business up and running, Dempster-Smith offered to pay $3000 to install a special kind of filter that he claimed would remove 99 per cent of smoke particulates – though this was also rejected by council. Addressing concerns the sauna reflects a corporatisation of the space, Dempster-Smith rubbished those claims due to the fact there are multiple other businesses in the area.

What do you think?

“There are already two mobile vendors operating at the carpark and I’ve had so many people approach me saying they would love us if we operated at the site,” he said.

“The council’s saying they’re concerned about the smoke pollution but my push back is that there are 40-50 wood-fired food places operating in the council area, and the council also allows wood-fired barbecues in parks. It’s a double standard.

“It’s a shame because in Sydney if you want to go to a sauna you have to go to a gym and look at a wall and it’s always overcrowded."

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