Ballina Council has voted unanimously to move ahead with plans to allow detached secondary dwellings on rural properties despite a staff recommendation not to proceed.
The move brings the council into line with Lismore and Byron, which have both allowed detached secondary dwellings for several years, arguing they allow ‘aging in place’ of older farmers, expanded family accommodation and potential rural rental income.
Ballina planning staff preparing the report to council offered four options: the first being to commence drawing up a planning proposal; the second, to ‘take no further action’; the third, to introduce a secondary dwelling category but remove the existing category for rural workers’ dwellings; and the fourth, to investigate further.
At its March meeting, staff recommended the council take no further action, but councillors demurred, and in its June report staff took the unusual step of ‘recommending’ the first option while indicating to councillors that they still ‘preferred’ not to proceed.
‘In conclusion the recommendation is as per option one, as outlined. However the council staff preference remains option two, as was recommended in the March 2017 meeting report,’ the staff report stated.
‘Option two has been the long standing position of this council and from a whole of community perspective it is considered that council has managed rural land use conflicts relatively well, with generally speaking, limited conflicts in use,’ it read.
But councillors were not to be deterred, with a motion by Cr Cadwallader and seconded by Cr Smith unanimously agreeing to endorse ‘the preparation of a planning proposal which proposes to permit dual occupancy development (attached and detached) with development consent within the RU1 Primary Production and RU2 Rural Landscape zones under the provisions of Ballina LEP 2012.’
Coming to terms with reality
Cr Cadwallader told Echonetdaily that while staff were reticent on the issue, the move was simply an attempt to come to terms with what was already happening.
‘We did have a councillor briefing and we thrashed out the pros and cons,’ she said.
‘Personally I get a lot of complaints about unauthorised dual occupancies. They’re old dairy bales and things like that with people living in them.
‘In fact, if you look at the report I think there have been something like 88 complaints since 2012 that have been investigated – and then another whole heap that haven’t been investigated. I mean the staff just can’t keep up with it, to be honest.
‘I’ve had numerous complaints just recently,’ she said.
Cr Cadwallader said her view was that the council ‘may as well legitimise this; it’s happening anyway.’
‘Is it an affordable housing option? Yes, I think it is. Potentially it frees up enforcement resources by giving them a pathway – and then you can charge section 94 contributions.
‘If you can rent houses out as well, that provides a maybe struggling farmer with an additional income.’
Cr Cadwallader said the existing 2007 DCP allowed for most of what was proposed, except that the dwelling had to be attached, usually by a veranda or a covered walkway.
There would be no change in the requirement that the two dwellings had to be accessible via the same road access, she said.
Councillors also moved that the planning proposal be forwarded to the Department of Planning and Environment for Gateway determination and subsequently put on public exhibition.
They further requested staff prepare ‘associated draft amendments to Ballina Shire Development Control Plan 2012 – Chapter 7 Rural Living and Activity to align the DCP with the planning proposal.’