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January 29, 2021

How to reply to Council’s draft Unauthorised Dwelling Policy?

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Main Arm Rural Residents Association (MARRA) has highlighted the failures of the council’s process in relation to the policy since it was first put forward asking council to go back to the drawing board and work with the community to develop a clear and transparent policy that everyone supports. MARRA points out that the robo-letters sent by council staff in September ‘was concocted outside the policy, with no public consultation’ and that the council intends to send further letters to residents throughout the shire.

Aslan Shand

With Council’s draft Unauthorised Dwelling Policy causing alarm and stress within the hinterland community, the Main Arm Residents Association (MARRA) have authored a guide to help residents lodge a submission.

The policy, which is on exhibition until October 21, came about on the fly under acting Greens Mayor Sarah Ndiaye. It was not discussed with the community, was not even on Council’s meeting agenda, and was put forward as a subsection of a development application (DA) for a property at Skinners Shoot.

Council staff then used the draft resolution 20-283 and draft policy to start pursuing alleged unauthorised dwellings in Main Arm via threatening robo-letters.

MARRA’s document outlines suggested topics to address, including that the policy should cover all accommodation, and not just dwellings. It also raises issues like affordable housing, neighbourhood amenity, the environment, bushfire risk, the cost of upgrades, and how to treat landowners fairly, transparently and equitably during the processes implied under the policy.

One local resident, who asked not to be named, said ‘I have been looking at all the various documentation that I need to come to grips with to respond, including the LEP (local environment plan), DCP (development control plan), fire regulations, NSW gateway determination policy and process, and planning law’.

They said, ‘It took me about an hour just to try and work out what I needed to start considering. For example, with the LEP, there are a range of different versions; including 1988 and 2014, that have different parts that apply.

‘Even understanding the current draft policy is complicated. It wasn’t understandable by a normal person – I still don’t understand what a merit test for LEP means? The policy really needs to have a whole lot of procedures that match each of the options. I think they need months to get their policy sorted, to discuss it with the community, and then present it for feedback’.

It is important to note that the policy is intended to be used for illegal dwellings throughout the Byron Shire which includes unauthorised granny flats, converted garages etc in urban areas from Suffolk Park to Ocean Shores.

♦ See previous article Unauthorised development – what is Council’s liability and where is the balance? where The Echo spoke to Professor John Sheehan, a leading expert on property rights, who explained the issues that both Council and landowners face with regards to development and compliance.

Restart process

MARRA president and aspiring Greens mayor Duncan Dey said, ‘MARRA wants Council to restart this process properly, and bring the community with them.

‘If Council won’t, then let’s consider how to ensure this policy and its execution doesn’t destroy the fabric of rural communities.

‘MARRA encourages everyone in the Shire to look at the policy and provide feedback to Council on what you’d like done, from a full restart to what the policy needs to include to move forward.

‘If you feel at risk by putting in a submission, then we suggest that you ask a trusted relative or reliable friend to lodge for you. The number of submissions will matter,’ said Mr Dey.

You can view MARRA’s pro forma on their website.

More on unauthorised dwellings

Cartoon of the week – 28 October, 2020

We love to receive letters, but not every letter will be published; the publication of letters is at the discretion of the online and print letters editors.


Resident groups split over unauthorised dwelling policy

With Council extending public submissions  by one week for landowners to respond to the draft Unauthorised Dwelling Policy, resident groups appear to be divided on the issue.


How to reply to Council’s draft Unauthorised Dwelling Policy?

With Council’s draft Unauthorised Dwelling Policy causing alarm and stress within the hinterland community, the Main Arm Residents Association (MARRA) have authored a guide to help residents lodge a submission. But remember this policy also applies to urban areas.


Unauthorised development – what is Council’s liability and where is the...

Further to Council’s aggressive plans to pursue unauthorised development in the Shire’s hinterland, The Echo spoke to Professor John Sheehan, a leading expert on property rights, who explained the issues that both Council and landowners face with regards to development and compliance.


Byron Council staff target Main Arm residents over unauthorised dwellings

Residents in Main Arm are shocked after Byron Shire Council staff sent out letters accusing property owners of having unauthorised development on their land while there is both a moratorium in place and an unauthorised dwelling policy currently on public exhibition.


Exploring the risks of illegal dwellings

The Byron Shire and the Northern Rivers are well known for their abundent range of illegal dwellings, additions, and converted garages.


Byron Shire’s unauthorised dwelling approval policy goes public

Byron Council’s plan to provide the owners of unauthorised dwellings with an avenue to seek approval has proceeded to the next stage, with councillors dismissing a number of amendments requested by a community group.


Byron Shire Council’s illegal dwelling policy scant on detail

A change to a crucial definition in the Byron Shire Council’s Draft Unauthorised Dwelling Policy that comes to Council this week has been criticised by Community Action Byron Shire spokesperson, Duncan Dey.


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  1. So these people all of a sudden need to understand the rules and regulations governing developments in the Byron Shire and they complain about the time it takes to understand the guidelines? Welcome to the real world! This is what all those that have carried out complaint developments through Council have to go through, including paying the corresponding fees. Most likely you will need a professional planner to help you and then it’s just time, and more time and money to work through all the issues you will come up against. One recommendation…don’t get angry at Council staff, they are just doing their job and putting them off side will certainly not help you.

  2. Can we please get a legal opinion on the terms “illegal”, “unauthorised”, and “unapproved” by a reputable, qualified source and stop the confusion being spread by the on-going random interchange of these words?


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