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Council clarifies balcony collapse

Eight people were injured when this balcony collapsed at this Clarence Street, Yamba property. Image: Lynne Mowbray.
Following the collapse of a balcony at a Yamba property on Friday April 28, which resulted in injuries to eight people, the Independent sought information about the Clarence Street building’s history. Clarence Valley Council’s (CVC) Environment, Planning & Community director, Des Schroder, said in an emailed statement that “a building approval to construct a balcony at the rear of the premises was issued by the former Maclean shire council in 1995”. “A final inspection was carried out of the works in 1996,” he said. The council approved a development application in 2007 to demolish the existing dwelling and construct a new dwelling. However, Mr Schroder said that a construction certificate, which is required before work commences, was not sought by the applicant. “The consent has since lapsed,” Mr Schroder said. “Council is investigating issues relating to the collapse, but cannot comment on those investigations. “Council has issued an order on the owners of the premises requiring them to demolish the entire deck, including the portion of the deck still intact.” Mr Schroder said rebuilding the deck will require development and construction certificate applications before any work can commence. A report in another Clarence Valley newspaper referred to anti short term rental Facebook group, Neighbours Not Strangers, and its questioning of who might be responsible. A post on the site asks, among other perceived issues: “Who’s responsible: the local council for tolerating such activity in an unlicensed property, the internet platform that facilitated the booking, [or] the owner/s of the property?” Mr Schroder said: “Development consent is not required for a private function to be carried out at a private residence.” He declined to comment, however, when asked: If a residence is used for business purposes without consent – in this case a short-term rental facilitated by an online booking agency – does CVC regard it as a business? The house is located in an R3 Medium Density Residential zone, which only allows “Home-based child care; Home occupations; Home occupations (sex services)” without consent, the Clarence Valley Local Environmental Plan (LEP) 2011 states. Any other use, such as bed and breakfast accommodation, home businesses, residential accommodation and serviced apartments (among others that would not be relevant to this house), require the council’s consent. The LEP specifically prohibits “any other development not specified” in the LEP sections cited above. Among the LEP’s objectives for the R3 zone, it supports the enabling of “serviced apartments while maintaining the medium density residential character and amenity of a locality”.