The Mirror News

A long standing contentious issue

• Steve and Kerry Green are in limbo.

ACROSS the Shire there are numerous old and inappropriate subdivisions related to historic activity such as mining or transport (rail and boat) that in the late 1800s were anticipated to develop into towns or ‘closer settlements’ (a form of small lot farming that may have been viable at the time).

Steve and Kerry Green of Hedley are just two of the many people affected by the Amendment that was initially adopted by Council at its August 24 2016 Ordinary Meeting of Council.

It is now proposed to include additional Restructure Overlays to the previously adopted Amendment C90 so that Council can reduce the cost and complexity in processing two separate amendments addressing similar matters.

The new provisions to be included in the Amendment propose to apply the Restructure Overlay (a process to combine lots) and include Restructure Plans in the Planning Scheme for additional areas to those previously adopted by Council.

Steve and Kerry have been told that 159 of 160 small blocks on their land, all with separate titles, are to be amalgamated into one block.

They had hoped to be able to sell off maybe one or two to help fund their retirement but it’s clear that won’t be able to happen now.

There are unsuspecting people who have bought blocks of land in Grip Road, Toora for between $70,000 and $90,000 that are now on the market for between $20,000 and $35,000.

Paul Stampton from the Planning Department of the South Gippsland Shire Council says they have been working hard for many years to try to achieve the very best outcome for all concerned but says they have gone as far as they can go.

“The State Government might not agree with what we have put forward,” he said.

“A key benefit of the Restructure Plans is to allow development to occur on land that cannot be developed under existing planning controls. It will also advise prospective purchasers via Vendors Statements and landowners that the development of a dwelling on every existing lot in old subdivisions is not appropriate where environmental and planning scheme constraints apply.”

The locations affected by the new provisions to be included in the Amendment are Buffalo, Darlimurla, Dollar, Hedley, Port Welshpool, Stony Creek and Toora.

As the rural residential lifestyle becomes increasingly popular, a growing number of these lots are being transferred from owners who have many small lots in one land holding, to new owners with the expectation of being able to build a house on each individual lot.

The Planning Scheme’s current policies discourage or prohibit the development of such areas.

This has resulted in development becoming effectively frozen in these old subdivisions. Landowners are left frustrated or else sell on to new, unsuspecting purchasers who repeat the cycle.

Some land purchasers have expressed the view to Council officers that they would not have purchased the land if they knew of the issues and that Council should be seeking to make the development constraints in these areas clear.

Applying the Restructure Overlay will address this issue.

In practice the Restructure Overlay is a pro-development tool, which will realise more dwellings on vacant, private land in these areas than currently permissible.

The C90 Restructure Plans conditionally allow for 50 more dwellings than is presently allowed by the Planning Scheme.

Where a Restructure Lot is vacant, the Restructure Plan gives reasonable expectation a dwelling will be approved, subject to the decisions of external referral authorities such as the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority, the Country Fire Authority and South Gippsland Water.

The formal four-week consultation period required by the Planning and Environment Act 1987 will be extended to six weeks and all affected landowners will be invited by mail to an individual meeting (held in person or by telephone as desired) to discuss the potential effect of the proposed Restructure Plan on their property and for guidance in making a submission.

Drop-in sessions will also be held at various locations around the Shire.

These will be supported by a Council web page, newspaper articles and advertisements.

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