The ACT government is considering relaxing planning laws that prevent people from building houses that cast shadows over neighbour's yards. Photo: Supplied
The ACT government is considering relaxing planning laws that prevent people from building houses that cast shadows over neighbours' yards.
Some territory builders were scathing about the rules, arguing they forced them to build "wedding cake" designs to fit houses on new blocks and comply with new solar access requirements.
The Canberra Liberals unsuccessfully moved a disallowance motion when the laws were notified last year after industry groups argued they led to odd-shaped houses, tiny rooms and flooding.
The government pushed ahead with the rules that were intended to ensure south-facing houses got access to sunlight.
But correspondence from the end of last year shows the government was preparing to roll back the laws by reverting to the previous definition for northern boundaries.
It has since scrapped that idea, after complaints from environmentally minded building firms and ACT Greens Minister Shane Rattenbury.
It now plans to draft a new variation after talks with the building industry in the first quarter of this year.
The issue has polarised the ACT's housing industry and the government has so far been unable to find a way to address problems raised by groups such as the Master Builders Association, while still ensuring improved solar access.
Robbie Gibson, an architect with Green House Architects, said reverting to the old definition for northern boundaries would have led to blocks that "were darker than ever" because the new definition was drafted with a package of other solar rules.
"You can't just change one element like that," Mr Gibson said.
"You've got people that don't care about ensuring that everyone's got their winter sun protected."
But Mr Gibson agreed there were flaws in the new system that required "tweaking".
Sustainable Development Minister Simon Corbell said that
the public consultation on the subject ''revealed very strong opinions, both for and against the changing of the definition of northern boundary''.
For that reason, there would be further talks with industry ''in order to refine the policy through a further Territory Plan variation''.
Canberra Liberals planning spokesman Alistair Coe said Mr Corbell was simply buckling to pressure from Mr Rattenbury. The deputy opposition leader accused both men of ''trying to be the biggest regulator in the village'' and called the current laws ''perverse'' because they ensured that ''everybody suffered equally''.
''We welcome the technical variation,'' Mr Coe said.
''But once again Shane Rattenbury is calling the shots and Simon Corbell has buckled.''
But Mr Rattenbury said further talks were necessary as builders were divided on the subject.
He said more environmentally minded firms did not want the rules wound back and the time had come for the housing industry to ''think more creatively in design''.
''It is clearly going to take some significant effort … for the government to try and find a way through, which gets good environmental and home energy outcomes, whilst addressing some of the practical concerns that industry has raised,'' Mr Rattenbury said.