Maybe the answer to DV 343, which is causing angst among Mr Fluffy owners and their neighbours, lies in a Backyard Bonus or BYB. Readers will recall the ACT government is allowing dual occupancy building on established residential blocks cleared due to asbestos contamination under this planning variation. It’s a nice little earner for ACT treasury.
The Backyard Bonus was raised in the magazine “Policy” (spring edition 2010) and originally was intended to compensate people who were individually disadvantaged but provided an overall benefit to society. The example given was a new motorway outside your back fence. Unquestionably such a development is of benefit to perhaps thousands of commuters but leaves you with noise, fumes and loss of property value.
While it is difficult to see how a dual occupancy next door could be compensatable, consider what currently happens when a developer buys up and demolishes a property to erect several units. A process must be followed, neighbours consulted, appeals allowed. Although some slip through, such a land use change is not a “given”. However what happens when an ACT government approves dual occupancies in advance through DV 343?
Granted there is no overall benefit to society but should that deny a neighbour compensation for a decision in which they had no opportunity to have a say?
They built or purchased their home in a now established suburb where it probably conformed to the then architectural style etc. Now they find a dual occupancy next door which due to a smaller plot ratio being allowed is perhaps of two storeys, cutting out the sunlight. Do they have legal recourse?
Other than the compulsory acquisition of rural land in a planned city like Canberra the Mr Fluffy problem is something we have not faced before. Certainly it needs to be addressed, however our local problem is compounded because unlike elsewhere in Australia we do not own our land: strictly speaking an ACT government can do as it wishes.
Given these legislative powers people naturally are concerned the character of their street could be dramatically changed and while nobody expects an identical residence to be built to that demolished the style of those houses in our newer Gungahlin and Molonglo developments are not welcome either in many older areas.
The ACT government should clarify its intentions with DV 343 otherwise a compensation claim through a Backyard Bonus might still be foreseeable.