Mid Murray Council reviews development assessment process

A legal dispute over the development of a shack at Bowhill earlier this year has inspired Mid Murray Council to review their development assessment procedures.

Bowhill landowner Graham Harris took legal action late last year after damage was caused to his property when the development was halted by council.

On two occasions, he was ordered to cease construction immediately based on reports that the development lay 1.5 metres too close to the waterfront.

At the March meeting of council, planning officer Joel Taggart advised council that staff were reviewing the assessment procedures for dwellings in Shack Settlement Policy Areas.

In a report presented to elected members, Mr Taggart explained why the review was initiated. 

“An issue arose in Bowhill involving media coverage and legal action about the location of a ‘notional facade line’ on a holiday house/shack that is under construction,” he said in the report.

“The notional facade line is a planning concept that is based around an invisible line that runs from the closest corners of each neighbouring dwelling across and allotment.”

The report stated that staff members would now ensure the stated notional facade line satisfied the development plan requirements at every stage of the assessment process.

At the council meeting, Councillor Jeff Hall asked at what stage would a breach of the facade line policy be deemed a disadvantage to neighbours.

“If it’s all supposed to be black and white, why are there so many shades of grey?,” he said.

In response, Mr Taggart said non-compliance was only triggered if a balcony or deck overstepped the facade line by three metres.

“We have 170 cases of illegal development due to compliance issues and it comes down to the planning officer’s discretion to decide how minor or major it is,” he said.

“It’s about determining the risk to the broader community and the Bowhill issue was deemed minor because it was only out by a few centimetres.”

At the meeting, Director of Development and Environmental Services Peter Graves said the policy had always been clear but they were tightening it up internally.

“To ensure we don’t end up in a similar situation again, the policy will now give us confidence that the site plan is accurate,” he said.