Development ‘injustice’ resolved

A COSTLY appeal to Victoria’s administrative tribunal has resolved a Latrobe City permit fight in favour of the developers.

The two-year battle to obtain a permit for the construction of three houses at 80 Cross’s Road, Traralgon was unanimously rejected by Latrobe City Councillors in November 2011, despite recommendations by planning officers supporting the small development.

Property owner Les Hardy said “inconsistencies” with councillors and planning officers, as well as a high turnover of planning department staff, led to a costly, drawn-out process which may deter development.

“The reason my wife and I went to (Victorian Civil Administration Tribunal) is that we felt there was an injustice,” Mr Hardy said.

“We had done everything we could to do the right thing with the houses, it wasn’t meant to be a money making investment, we were just following people’s advice.

“It is difficult to know whose fault the delay in the planning process is, but at the end of the day (the VCAT appeal) costs a lot of money.”

VCAT set aside council’s decision to refuse the permit, subject to conditions, allowing for the development of a three lot subdivision and construction of dwellings on the site.

An alternate motion, moved by Latrobe City Mayor Sandy Kam during the November council meeting, in favour of objector and neighbour Michelle Anderson, was unanimously supported, issuing a notice of refusal to grant a permit.

Council cited issues including loss of neighbourhood character and failure to comply with the Residential Design Code and guidelines of the residential zone one.

Despite the officer report, which was handed to councillors prior to the November 2011 meeting, stating the proposal complies with both the State Planning Policy Framework and Local Planning Policy Framework, the motion was not supported.

“The proposal will add to the range of available housing types to meet increasingly diverse needs, and assist in directing urban growth into Traralgon,” the officer report stated.

Despite Cr Kam’s motion stating the application did not satisfactorily meet the objectives of Clause 55 of the Latrobe Planning Scheme, VCAT member Alison Slattery reported the proposed development displayed a high level of consistency and was fully compliant with the objectives.

In an email response to The Express, Latrobe City Council chief executive Paul Buckley said, “any person who applies for a permit which is refused by council had the right of appeal to VCAT”.