Councillors reject donga DA in split decision

The so-called 'donga' development application was rejected by Tenterfield councillors, but will their decision stand up in a court of law?
The so-called 'donga' development application was rejected by Tenterfield councillors, but will their decision stand up in a court of law?

Councillors at Wednesday's monthly meeting rejected the controversial 'donga' development application for Rouse Street North, much to the relief of neighbours who had lobbied for the outcome but against the recommendation of council staff.

At the heart of the issue was a private covenant placed by developers Graham and Lee Rossington over the 13-lot subdivision back in 2015, disallowing (amongst other conditions) the establishment of a relocated residential building or one not constructed of new materials, or that isn't connected to septic or sewer.

While Tenterfield Shire Council isn't required to observe the conditions of private covenants in its DA decisions under its current Local Environmental Plan, councillors rejected the application on the basis that it doesn't meet one of the objections of the Development Control Plan in 'providing for a good design which provides continuity of character between the local building forms and new development by using a selection and/or combination of characteristic elements'.

Also that it's inconsistent with council's Operational Plan in relation to Community Strategic Plan goals and Economic Plan goals.

It was a split decision, however, with Crs Don Forbes, Brian Murray and Peter Petty voting to approve the DA, but being outvoted by Crs Gary Verri, Michael Petrie, Bronwyn Petrie, John Macnish, Greg Sauer and Tom Peters. Cr Bob Rogan was not at the meeting.

Other councils' plans, including Armidale's, include a clause to say that such covenants are taken into consideration and Crs Bronwyn Petrie and Greg Sauer indicated they will move to rectify this in Tenterfield's case.

"This is a legally-registered covenant attached to the title, not written on a piece of toilet paper," Cr Bronwyn Petrie said.

She believes the Environment Protection Authority should have been called in on the unapproved development already on the site.

"We're feral town," she said.

The vote followed a site inspection by councillors on May 29, and further amendments to the DA with drew another two submissions.

Whether the onsite bore is registered still hasn't been determined, which was a concern to Cr Bronwyn Petrie as screening of the development relied on vegetation which may not survive the current water restrictions.

The applicant now has the right to appeal the decision in the Land and Environment Court in which case council will have to defend its position, probably requiring legal representation and an independent planning consultant to be engaged. As chief executive Terry Dodds pointed out, there's no budget for that.