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Image: Clarence Valley Council

‘Little old lane’ too narrow for infill development

Geoff Helisma |

Councillors have rejected a development application (DA) to construct five units on a narrow 1,897 square metre block of land at Turf Street, Grafton.

The developer had initially proposed to construct six three-bedroom ground-level dwellings on the land, which would also retain an existing house, in August 2017.

Subsequently, the developer modified the DA four times to eventually propose five two-bedroom ground-level dwellings.

At the September 18 Clarence Valley Council (CVC) meeting, councillors rejected the staff’s recommendation to approve the DA and “vary the DCP [development control plan] provisions in relation to landscaped area, minimum private open space dimension and setbacks to Maud Lane”.

Staff also recommended the “widening of Maud Lane from 3.96m to 5m”.

Councillor Richie Williamson amended the staff’s recommendation to include the construction of a “1.8m fence on the southern boundary of Maud Lane subject to the adjoining landholder’s agreement”.

The motion was lost, with councillors Kingsley, Clancy, Novak, Ellem and Toms voting against the motion.
Councillor Karen Toms’ motion, to “refuse the DA on the grounds it does not meet front setbacks, garage setbacks and landscape area”, won the day, with Cr Simmons also in support.

Councillor Williamson argued that “infill development” at places like the corner of Maud Lane and Turf Street site “will need to happen right across the valley” as the population grows.

He said that Maud Lane would be sealed and widened as a result and that the “long list of conditions to go with the DA … are in response to issues raised by the community”.

But it is “up to to councillors to make a judgment call” on the proposal, he said.

Councillor Ellem said that widening Maud Lane to accommodate the development would be “a major impact on a public laneway” and that “we could set ourselves up for an accident or fatality”.

He said “school kids walk down the lane way” and that “under this proposal cars will back out of the automatic garage doors” onto the lane, which will leave “little wriggle room”.

He also perceived the loss of privacy would be a “major issue” for people to the north and south of the proposed development.

Councillor Baker said arguing about driver behaviour and the lane’s size was “nothing but fear mongering and, in some cases, exaggerated fear for the very purpose of defeating the normal provisions we apply to these places”.

He said the developer had “been through the wringer … to a point where council planners are prepared to make minor variations to DCP”.

Councillor Clancy said that access should have been from Turf St, “but the design eliminates that … to maximise number of units for profit”.

He said Maude Lane was “a little old lane” and that “we need to balance the actual character of the place … in a way that doesn’t break so many points of the DCP”.

Councillor Tom’s prefaced her opposition by saying she “usually supported” staff recommendations to vary the DCP, however, on this occasion she was critical of how many dwellings were proposed.

She suggested four dwellings with access from Turf Street would be appropriate.

“I understand developers are in the business of money making … but not at expense of the neighbours,” she said.

Councillor Kingsley pointed out that if people chose to park in their driveways, rather than in the auto-door-equipped garages, that their cars would encroach on the laneway due to the narrow 3.4 metre setback.
“Most vehicles are 3.8 to 5 metres long,” he said.

The DA applicant, Richard Van Dorp, told the Independent that the owners were considering their next move.
“Their solicitors are looking at it,” he said.

“They can either ask the council to review their decision or go to the Land and Environment Court.”

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