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Builders welcome debate on 'confusing' new planning laws

SUPPORT: the changes are backed by Shane Rattenbury.

SUPPORT: the changes are backed by Shane Rattenbury. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

Canberra's builders have welcomed a forthcoming debate in the ACT Legislative Assembly about contentious new planning laws, which they believe will add tens of thousands of dollars to the price of a new home and make it harder to upgrade houses in older suburbs.

Draft Variation 306 to the Territory Plan, Canberra's key planing document, has been delayed after the ACT Liberals' move last week to disallow the legislation.

While this will trigger a debate in the Assembly in either April or May, the legislation is almost assured of being adopted, with the support of ACT Greens Shane Rattenbury.

Mr Rattenbury said the variation contained long-awaited improvements to residential and estate development codes.

"The changes in the Territory Plan are a culmination of years of work, stemming from the 2008 Labor-Greens parliamentary agreement, which required mandatory passive solar orientation and increased solar rights for residential homes and subdivisions,'' he said.

"Many of Canberra's existing suburbs were built long ago, without consideration of important design principles that allow for energy efficient homes and good public transport. Put simply, these changes will mean that new areas of Canberra are better designed, with attention given to issues such as solar orientation and sustainable transport,'' Mr Rattenbury said.

The Housing Industry Association's ACT division said the new rules were confusing, complicated and would cause extensive excavation of building blocks.

Master Builders Association ACT spokesman Jerry Howard said the debate was badly needed. ''This is the democratic process working as it was intended to, as this draft variation requires far more scrutiny.

''There's a disconnect between agencies within the government. They don't understand what the impacts of these rules are on the ground.''

He said the building sector would continue lobbying for ''sensible amendments to the proposals''.

''If, at the end of the day, we lose, that's fine; at least we've given it a fair crack,'' Mr Howard said.

Opposition planning spokesman Alistair Coe is on leave and the Liberals are not commenting on the variation.

Environment and Sustainable Development Minister Simon Corbell said the key to the new solar policies was to limit overshadowing of neighbouring blocks.

Mr Corbell said the new rules would encourage innovative and individual home design that contributed to the character of the suburb and provided a more appealing built form in the city.


  • What ever happened to affordable housing? Mr Corbell needs to recognise that "innovative and individual home design" is a very costly exercise

    We have recently compelted our new home for which we paid tens of thousands of dollars in variations to meet the ridiculous planning rules. If I hadn't stamped hard enough our home would have been cut into the side of a hill like a bunker and you would have almost been able to walk from the first floor balcony onto the footpath.

    If I build again (which I am keen to do), it won't be in the ACT.

    Date and time
    March 26, 2013, 8:55AM
    • The requirement to build more energy efficient new houses is excellent in a place like Canberra. Where this falls down is on older houses. I am in the process of building an extension to a 25 year old house in Canberra and all the energy efficient principles are mandatory for the extension. Not the whole house, just the extension. The question I ask is why? The extension is less than half the size of the current house and will be less than a third of the overall finished space. Any efficiency gains I make in the extension will be lost in the old building anyway as it's an open space. Just adds money to the cost of building that I will never recover in energy efficiency.

      Date and time
      March 26, 2013, 9:08AM
      • Over the last month I have come to realise that Draft Variation 306 makes it practically impossible for me to extend my 50yo home. The solar access rights mean that an extension to my home may resemble Hitler's bunker where it would need to be dug into the ground. Or it forces people to build on the Nth side of their block, and places a premium on the neighbours property. I have read the Draft Variation fact sheets, and submssions from architects and the HIA. I can completely relate to the objections and concerns of described in their submissions. It seems those with modern small blocks will have major issues building houses that comply with the variations in the code.

        Date and time
        March 26, 2013, 9:34AM
        • Agree with edgd here, while environmentally and aesthetically better, 'affordable' housing won't exist. The government is so one-eyed about the environment that they can't accept that people might want cheaper housing that is less eco friendly. These places can be improved over time when people can afford to install panels or whatever else. The one size fits all approach will make everything more expensive. Typical.

          Date and time
          March 26, 2013, 2:05PM
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