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Requests pursuant to GIPA Act

A recent Civil and Administrative Tribunal decision has upheld a local council’s decision to refuse an individual’s request for documents pursuant to the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (the GIPA Act).

A resident and ratepayer (“the applicant”) who resides in the local government area of the Sutherland Shire Council, made a request pursuant to the GIPA Act for documents relating to Council’s stormwater management investigation in respect of a stormwater issue on/near the applicant’s property, including information on who had directed Council’s officers, and who drafted responses on behalf of Council officers. In particular, the applicant sought the following records relevant to this decision:

  1. I request a record of the written report of the ‘visit’ by the relevant officer/s (ref:8/1/19), CR18-301708 Mr Barber’s email 5/12/18, para 3)
  2. Should no record exist for the ‘visit’ in Item 7, then I request the record supporting Mr Barber’s conclusion: there was no ‘problematic overland flow.’
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Builders Beware – The Importance of Council Approval

A recent Land and Environment Court Case highlights the importance of obtaining Council approval before spending time and incurring costs in constructing a secondary dwelling on a property.

The case of Sutherland Shire Council v Perdikaris [2019] NSWLEC 149 tells the tale of a man named Mr Perdikaris who made the decision to build a new shed on his property in Menai, to replace a small garage which was not suitable for his needs.

He started by seeking Council approval, which was granted, for the building of a driveway. This application did not contain any reference to the construction of a garage. Mr Perdikaris then sought quotes for a garage. During this process, he received advice from various companies that he did not necessarily need approval for a new garage. Mr Perdikaris also assumed that as there had already been approval for the previous, smaller garage, it would not be necessary to seek approval for a larger garage, in circumstances where the larger garage kept the same distance from the neighbours fence as the smaller garage had.
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Amber Light Approach – Where to from Now?

The term ‘Amber Light Approach’ was first coined in Ali v Liverpool City Council [2009] NSWLEC 1327 to describe an approach that had been favoured by the Court at the time. Under this approach, the decision-maker in the Class 1 appeal jurisdiction of the Land and Environment Court would consider whether an otherwise unacceptable development proposal could be approved after making identifiable amendments. If the answer to this question is yes, then the Court may approve the development proposal after the requisite amendments have been made (Vigor Master Pty Ltd v Warringah Council [2011] NSWLEC 1096).

The types of amendments the Court has ordered under the Amber Light Approach are quite diverse. These amendments include reducing the number of apartments in a residential apartment development (Benevolent Society v Waverley Council [2010] NSWLEC 1082), incorporating a wild life management plan (Riordans Consulting Survey Pty Ltd v Lismore City Council [2010] NSWLEC 1333), and changing the length of the proposed trial period in a brothel development (Tl & Tl Tradings Pty Ltd v Parramatta City Council [2017] NSWLEC 142). However, what exactly constitutes the Amber Light Approach has never been clearly defined, which, as will be seen below, makes the approach problematic.
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3 Tree-Lessons from the Land & Environment Court

Trees can mean many things to many people, for the ancient Norse people Yggrasil “the giant tree of life” connected the heavens and the earth, for real estate agents in metropolitan Sydney it delivers a mystical extra $40K to the selling price, and for the ancient welsh druids – stationary lovers. This varied appreciation of trees also extends to the many and various Class 2 applications in the Land & Environment Court. One person’s tree delights, is another’s waking terror.

  1. Annoyance or Discomfort of the Third Kind

If your neighbour’s trees or hedges continue to deposit leaves and other detritus all over your property, the best solution maybe to forgo the Class 2 Application and pick up a rake instead – as the Court has found that Gaia’s garbage will not be enough to engage an application by an affected land owner pursuant to section 7 (Disputes Between Neighbours) Act 2006 (NSW) (Trees Act):
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Section 34 Conciliation Conferences – Requirement for Reasons

A recent development consented to by a Commissioner of the Land and Environment Court during a Court mandated section 34 conference has been set aside by the Court of Appeal due to the fact that the Commissioner failed to give proper and adequate reasons for their decision. The Commissioner further failed to give proper reasons with respect to her satisfaction as to the legal perquisites to their power to grant the consent.

Huajun Investments Pty Ltd filed a class 1 appeal against City of Canada Bay Council’s deemed refusal of their DA which sough to demolish pre-existing structures on the DA site and replace it with an 8 storey-residential flat building.

After being sat down for a section 34 conference pursuant to section 34 of the Land and Environment Court Act 1979 (“the Act”) , The Commissioner overseeing the matter granted development consent in accordance with the agreed terms under section 34(3) of the Act. Section 34(3) states that once an agreement is reached, the Commissioner must:
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Inland Code: Simplifying development approval in Regional Code

The NSW Department of Planning & Environment has recently announced new legislation aimed to simplify and speed up the approval process for homes, home renovations and farm buildings in regional NSW. The Inland Code commences on 1 January 2019, with its major purpose to simplify the complying and exempt development rules in residential and rural areas of regional NSW. The rules and regulations with respect to complying and exempt development are going to be consolidated into the Inland Code, which will then form part of 3D of the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008.

Who does it apply to?

The Inland Code will apply to 69 differing local government areas as specified on the Inland Code Map. The Inland Code will apply to specific developments on land zones RU1, RU2, RU3, RU4, RU5, RU6, R1, R2, R3, R4 and R5 in the inland LGA.

Exempt Development:

The Code creates a brand new category of developments that now are classed as ‘exempt’. More specifically, the code now states that development standards for stock holding yards (that are not used for the sale of stock, grain silos and grain bunkers) are now all classed as exempt developments in the hope that it simplifies the process for citizens within these LGA.
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Is the need for a neutral or better outcome a requirement for success with respect to clause 4.6?

In a recent decision in the Land and Environment Court (LEC), the Court has given further clarification to the type of consideration that needs to be given to clause 4.6 of the standard instrument LEP.

The significant decision was given in the case Initial Action Pty Ltd v Woollahra Municipal Council [2018] NSWLEC 118 where Preston CJ clarified the appropriate approach to the consideration of clause 4.6. The importance of this judgment is that a clause 4.6 submission does not require developments which do not comply with the applicable development standard to have a neutral or better environmental planning outcome than a development that does not.

By way of background – a “Clause 4.6” in the standard instrument LEP which permits a consent authority to grant development consent for a development that would contravene a development standard, where the consent authority is satisfied of the following two standards:

  1. a written request from the applicant adequately demonstrating that the compliance with the development standard is unreasonable or unnecessary and that there is sufficient environmental planning grounds to justify the contravention; and
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Deferred Commencement Consents

On 21 June 2018, the Land and Environment Court of NSW handed down a decision which reinforced the importance of time limits on deferred commencement conditions.

The decision of Commissioner Preston in Dennes v Port Macquarie-Hastings Council [2018] NSWLEC 95 found that the Court had no jurisdiction to grant the appeal on its merits regardless of whether the evidence submitted as part of the deferred commencement condition was satisfactory given the fact that Consent had lapsed.

Background

On 17 August 2016 the Applicant appealed against Council’s refusal of an application for development consent (Consent). Commissioner Fakes upheld this appeal and granted development consent subject to a deferred commencement condition which required the Applicant to submit to Council for approval a Flood Emergency Response Plan (‘FERP’) by 17 August 2017.

The deferred commencement condition had to be fulfilled to Council’s satisfaction by 17 August 2017. The applicant submitted its FERP to Council in April 2017. Following this submission, Council advised the applicant that the deferred commencement condition had not been satisfied to the requisite standard on 20 June 2017.
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