Council zoning decisions made on the run can keep parents from helping their loved ones get into an already difficult to enter housing market.

Alan had gone past retirement age but kept himself busy guiding passengers in busy train stations. He loved his job.

His daughter was struggling to get into the housing market. Her budget meant she would have to live hours away from work, like a lot of first home buyers do. Her night shift work would make that travel impractical.

Alan decided to subdivide his home so she could build hers in the rear backyard and be close to mum and dad. The plan called for a three-bedroom home in the very tight backyard, and it ticked all the boxes of Rescode and the relevant clauses of the planning scheme.

The local council’s schedule required 75 square metres of open space on the ground with 35 square metres of it having a minimum dimension of five metres. The remaining 40 square metres had no minimum dimension. Standard B28 of Clause 55 states:

“A dwelling or residential building should have private open space of an area and dimensions specified in the schedule to the zone.”

The open spaces were made to be accessible from living areas and fortunately faced north. There were no adverse impact on the neighbours’ amenities like over shadowing or overlooking. The upper floor of the two-storey dual occupancy home was recessed from the lower floor to create a less bulky built form.

The street where Alan lived was populated with dual occupancy or townhouse developments. Really, this was the ideal neighbourhood for development.

Unfortunately, Alan was forced to rethink his gift to his daughter. The local council sent a Request for Further Information (RFI) which clearly showed the town planning drawings were overlooked. Council wanted the dwelling to have an open space of a minimum 75 square metres with a minimum dimension of three metres. That means a strip 25 metres long  by three metres wide! This is impossible to achieve on the typical suburban block.

So Alan wrote to his ward councillor, Mayor and other councillors, all of whom were in election mode. He got a swift response and a meeting is being set up with the planning officers, the councillors, the consultant and Alan.

In the meantime the local council manager quickly issued a second RFI, reiterating:

“You are required to provide 75sqm of open space with a minimum dimension of 3m. The 3m width is not stipulated anywhere in the policy.”

Alan had met with council prior to embarking on his gift giving initiative. Council’s officers advised him to satisfy the open space noted in the planning scheme. So this shocking new information made by council on the run was disturbing. Alan will now write to the Minister if the meeting is unsuccessful.

Is council violating civil rights and the Charter of Human Rights which allows his daughter to live near her again parents?

I recall another application where a mother wished to erect a granny flat near her only son, who had been injured in a horrific car accident. The land in question was 998 square metres. The local council required a lot to be a minimum of 1,000 square metres before it could be subdivided.

The mother wrote to council saying she had no intention of subdividing and would leave the granny flat to a carer when she could no longer care for her son. Council took the view that if a permit was granted, she would then subdivide her land and refused her application. She appealed at the VCAT and the member granted her a permit after two hours of hearing.

Has council lost touch with what matters in a state where increasing housing stock is of the highest priority and where development decisions must also consider economic benefits?