By ERWIN CHLANDA
A resident in Petrick Road says he is at his wits’ end with the inaction of NT Government about what he describes as blatant breaches of planning laws, turning rural residential land into an industrial block.
Ross Copland says his neighbour is running a plumbing business from the two hectares, in violation of the Rural Living zoning, resulting in significant noise, dust and traffic.
Mr Copland says the facts, as he had been putting them to government bodies in a three year campaign, are open and shut.
When the Alice Springs News Online sought a comment from Lands Minister Dave Tollner he did not reply but flicked the matter to the Department of Lands, Planning and the Environment. That in turn passed the buck to the Development Consent Authority (DCA).
According to the department the DCA had:-
• considered this matter in April last year;
• determined the use to be consistent with “home based contracting” under the NT Planning Scheme;
• ordered certain works (including additional landscaping and the siting of material) relating to the amenity of the area. (The DCA clearly has an odd understanding of the word amenity: “a pleasant or useful feature; pleasantness of a place or person,” according to the Oxford Dictionary. Amenity is clearly something that affects a wider area, would certainly refer also to noise, dust and traffic, and would not be something that can be fixed by planting a few shrubs and moving around some materials. “The purpose of this clause is to ensure that home based contracting is established and operated in a manner that does not detract from the amenity of the locality,” says the Act.)
• and there was no new evidence of a breach of the Planning Scheme.
All this comes as a big surprise for Mr Copland: His last of many meetings with the DCA had been well after April last year, and the authority had indicated that breaches of the Act had indeed been committed.
The local members of the DCA are David Koch, Alistair Feehan, Brendan Heenan and Steve Brown. Chansey Paech is an “alternate” for Cr Heenan and Cr Brown.
The chairman was Peter McQueen. Since August last year the chairman is former Chief Minister Denis Burke (pictured in 2001).
The News yesterday morning asked to interview the chairman. This morning we were told Mr Burke “is not available to talk”.
We have passed on the invitation “to provide your questions in writing,” but have invited Mr Burke to provide comment on this report – entirely at his leisure, of course.
Mr Copland says while the regulatory bodies keep re-iterating what the neighbour is allowed to do under “home based contracting”, they do not act on what he is doing that is obviously not permitted.
In more than three years of fighting to get his rights acknowledged, and after numerous e-mails and meetings, Mr Copland says: “They simply regurgitate what is allowed but have never actually done anything to enforce compliance.”
Noisy manufacturing-type work is being carried out, apparently grinding or sawing, and there is significant vehicle traffic.
Mr Copland says the Development Consent Authority, the Development Assessment Services, the Minister for Planning and the Department of Lands and Planning are clearly not obtaining any first-hand information about the breaches. He says:–
• Contrary to the Planning Act, the business operates in a manner that detracts from the amenity of the locality.
• The neighbour is exceeding by far the 200 square meters he is allowed to use for “home based contracting”.
• A greater demand or load than ordinarily required is imposed on public utilities.
• Goods and equipment are visible from outside the site.
• More than three vehicles are kept on the site. (Mr Copland says today, for example, there are four 4WDs, a truck low loader about nine meters long, a truck and trailer with a digger on the back, another digger truck, four vehicles in the front under the car port, and going to work he passed another car coming in.)
“There were 11 vehicles that I could see, and more ’round the back,” says Mr Copland.
He says there is “permanent and temporary storage of plant, vehicles, containers, specific work related equipment, fill and gravel on this site.
“This does not included the numerous vehicles coming and going from the site which provide further daily occupation of the site area.
“Even highlighting a small portion of the area used aggregates to an area exceeding 1,200 square meters,” says Mr Copland.
“This does not account for the main shed which has a total area of around 430 square meters. A significant component of it is used directly in conjunction with the business on both a permanent and temporary basis.”
Part of the shed, apparently without the proper permissions, has been fitted out as an office complete with ablutions.
He says increased traffic density “not only creates a significant impost and danger to the locality but has already begun to damage the bitumen and road verge.
“The whole of the yard, storage, plant, vehicles, containers, equipment and parking areas encompass a significant area of the allotment every day.”
There are irregular hours of operation between, 5.30 am and 7 pm on any given day, including weekends.
Mr Copland says “home based contracting” would suggest the property needs to be the principal place of residence and occupied on a full time basis.
“This is not the case.
“How is the council able to reconcile an industrial and commercial use on an RL zoned allotment without making provision for a higher rateable value?
“Any commercial use on appropriately zoned land attracts a significantly higher rateable value and rate amount, commensurate with the significantly higher use of such land.
“Obviously those who carry out non compliant uses on lower density zoned land avoid any commercial rate payments to the detriment of all rate payers and local residents.”
PHOTO AT TOP: The red rectangle denotes the new shed. The yellow enclosures denote land the neighbour says is used for home based contracting. The parallel red lines in the top left of the photo denotes the access track. It alone takes up land well in excess of the 200 square meters permitted.
DECLARATION OF INTEREST: The writer lives in the neighbourhood.
By ERWIN CHLANDA