Saturday, 25 November 2017

Building lesson #5 - Getting through the evil that is council planning permission: the sequel

All good horror movies have a sequel, why should council planning be any different?

You may recall my post last year which detailed blow by painful blow, the struggle we had to obtain council planning permission, the ridiculous amount of bureaucratic red tape and the decision in the end that after all that time and effort, we didn't need a planning permit as we had complied with the requirements of all of our overlays.

You can imagine our reaction when during the Building Permit phase, our building surveyor told us that he couldn't issue a building permit because we didn't have "planning permission".  I thought he must have missed the letter we receive from council indicating that we didn't need permission - think again!  Our building surveyor told us that one of the overlays had changed in February of this year and now our build which was 100% compliant three months before is now subject to needing a planning permit.

So what happened in February I hear you ask?  The Victorian Government changed all significant landscape overlays to include protections for the Yarra River.  That means that any development close to the Yarra River which may have an affect on the banks, watercourse, or public viewing, must now meet these new requirements.  These new requirements adjust wall heights from being compliant at 8 meters to now needing permission for anything over 6 meters.  As our block is slopping and we are building a double story house, in one section we are at 8 meters.  The provisions of the overlay I fully support, you only need look at the development along the Yarra River in Richmond to see that protection was needed, however our block is about 1km away from the river up and over a hill.  We would need to be building the Eureka Tower to cast any shadows over the Yarra.

Surely there are transitional arrangements for those who went through council prior to the changes?  Absolutely!  If you have a planning or building permit in place prior to February this year, then you don't have to comply with the new provisions.  Our problem, council informs us, is that because we were compliant, that is, we obeyed every rule and designed the house to meet every overlay condition, we didn't need a planning permit so therefore, we don't have a planning permit and the transitional rules don't apply to us.  That means we now have to go back to council planning, advertise the development and get permission....again....for the second time in 12 months....sigh, yell, scream, curse!!!!

Our council have acknowledged how unfair this is for us, but has basically told us that we are unlucky and to get on with it.  Supposedly no one owed us a duty of care to inform us of the changes which occurred in February, even though we had a letter granting permission that was no longer valid.

The positive to come out of this situation though is that I have taken the issue to the Victorian State Government and have spoken directly to the planner who drafted the amendment.  This planner told me that he and his team spent a day work-shopping who might be affected by the new rules to ensure everyone was being dealt with fairly - it never occurred to them that there would be anyone is our situation.  This planner was a shining example of a public servant, he apologised for the situation we now found ourselves in and we worked together to draft a third transitional arrangement which will now be used when planning overlays change.  That way, hopefully none of you will find yourselves in this planning predicament.

Our council have also provided assistance expediting the planning process and waiving the fee!  I guess I should be thankful that they are at least trying to help us out of a most unjust and unfair situation.

We will be delayed (all going to plan, pardon the pun!) by about 2 months.....fingers crossed!

Thanks for stopping by


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