The Simonds family mansion in Yarradale Road, Toorak. Photo: Paul Jeffers
A millionaire must demolish his lavish riverside entertainment area, outbuildings and colonnaded garden after he illegally cut down native trees while extending his three-level Toorak home.
When Mark Simonds, heir apparent to Australia's fourth-largest home-building company, applied to Stonnington Council in 2003 to extend his Yarradale Road home, he was given a permit to add a new entrance foyer, four-car garage and a mooring wharf on the river's edge.
But he didn't stop there. The businessman also included an outdoor bar, covered eating and entertainment area, inbuilt trampoline, storage sheds, an elaborate jetty, decking and a Greco colonnade and entablature structure stretching from his mansion to the Yarra River - none of which was on the planning permit.
Illustration: Matt Golding
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal last week ordered Mr Simonds to demolish parts of his extension within 98 days and pay $80,000 to cover the legal costs of Melbourne Water and Stonnington Council because he breached a planning permit.
Mr Simonds' family owns the Simonds Homes empire, which sells new houses and land in Melbourne's outer suburbs under the motto ''We're in it together''. His palatial home and gardens stretch across 2262 square metres on a sweeping bend of prime Yarra riverfront.
After the renovation, Mr Simonds also added an unsanctioned set of stairs to the mansion and moved into the basement, an area meant to be uninhabited because it lies below flood levels for the area, decorating it with windows and furnishings.
After complaints from nearby residents, Melbourne Water and Stonnington Council took Mr Simonds and his company, Simonds Custodians, to VCAT, seeking an enforcement order they comply with the permit.
''The construction of an outdoor eating area and associated structures … were carried out without a permit. Those structures have contravened, and continue to contravene … the Stonnington Planning Scheme,'' the tribunal ruled last week. It also stated that unless the council issued an updated planning permit, Mr Simonds must demolish the various structures by December 9 and replant the riverbank with native vegetation.
''The matter has been sorted with VCAT,'' said Mr Simonds, who intends to apply for an amended permit for some of the unsanctioned work.
He is not the only member of the family to build without permission. Two doors down, his parents, company founders Gary and Pamela Simonds, are in mediation with VCAT over a similar enforcement order requiring them to demolish sections of their recently completed mansion's pool and outbuildings that were not specified in the permit. The council alleges the couple added extra size and length to a pool, chopped down seven trees, and built a large terrace and retaining wall on flood-zone land, failing to properly landscape the river's edge.
The case echoes a similar fight last year when retail billionaire Solomon Lew and his daughter Jacqueline were forced to dig up a pool they had constructed illegally on public land next to their Mount Eliza holiday home.
Stonnington mayor Matthew Koce said: ''The Yarra River is one of our most important natural assets and we need to ensure it is protected.''
The council would continue to monitor ''illegal works and act upon any breaches'', he said.