HAWKESBURY Council refused permission for a Pitt Town Bottoms family to extend their house, because it is below minimum safe flood levels and, according to council staff, would set a poor precedent.
At the February 13 Council meeting, councillors unanimously refused the application.
The DA was to extend a family dwelling near the Hawkesbury River, which is below the one in five year flood line, and is considered very dangerous. A structure on the property has been washed away by flood waters in the past.
The dwelling was built in the early 1990s, and the current owners bought it without knowing it was an illegal dwelling, which Hawkesbury Council was tolerating to exist.
The house has changed hands several times since it was originally built. By submitting a DA for the extension, the owners were clearly trying to do things the right way.
David Murphy, one of the owners, addressed Council, and said he was aware of the flooding risk, and was prepared to indemnify Council, should floods ever damage the house.
He said he was simply trying to make the house more homely for his young family.
Greg Hall, who prepared the DA for the family, said the extension to the house was minimal.
He also added that concerns about flooding did not stop the fact that four people already lived in the home.
“Whether you approve this or not, you will have the same amount of people living in the property with the same flood risk,” he said.
However, Council’s director of city planning Matthew Owens argued strongly that the home and family were in significant danger, because the house was below the one in five year flood level.
“The issue is the ‘flood prone’ or the extent of the flood affectation on the land,” he said.
“It isn't only the risk to life, it is property damage, and if something washes down the river it will cause property damage on other properties.
Mr Owens said staff did not want the home in its spot at all, let alone making it bigger.
He said Council staff tolerated its presence only because of a 1992 Council resolution, where Council recognised ‘existing use rights’ for the building to be used as a home.
Mr Owens said that legally, only a court could provide those rights.
“Council can't issue existing use rights but it can accept that there is something there and not do anything about it,” he said.
“Council has accepted the house is there and allowed it to remain, in this case we have accepted Council’s resolution from March 1992, but we do not recommend extending it.”
Mr Owens said granting permission for the dwelling to be extended would set a precedent for other developments on illegal dwellings to be accepted.