Couple beats council in shed row

IN A SHOCK decision, the Fraser Coast Regional Council has lost a landmark case brought by a young couple wanting to build a shed on their vacant block at Poona.

Michael and Heather Lawton’s win in the Building and Development Dispute Resolution Tribunal’s hearing in August could extinguish the council’s no-shed-before-house permit policy, affecting hundreds of land owners.

“But the council is now fighting us,” Heather Lawton said.

“They are taking us to the Planning and Environment Court to appeal our win and frankly we are not sure whether we can afford to fight them any further.

“We are young. We don’t have a lot of spare money to fight this council and all we want to do is to build our shed on our block of land at Poona to store stuff while we get around to building.”

On Friday after the Chronicle asked the council to explain its decision to fight the Lawtons’ win, a spokesman said that the council had “an established policy communicated through all four of its planning schemes and in its amenity and aesthetics policy of not allowing sheds to be erected on vacant land until such time as the owner has obtained the necessary development permits to erect a dwelling on the site”.

“This policy has been implemented in response to community concerns about this issue, especially in relation to concerns about people living in sheds and the amenity impacts that they may cause.”

The Lawtons told the tribunal that they did not intend to live in the shed.

“When we decided to appeal the council’s rule on this we weighed up that the cost of appealing at around $300 was much less than our being forced to apply to the council for a building permit for a house,” Ms Lawton said.

“And anyway we’re not ready to build our house. We need time and the money for that.”

The tribunal criticised the council’s planning scheme, saying it did not appear to address the issue of when a shed can or can’t be constructed and “whether it is a requirement that a building works application is required to be made for a detached house prior to a construction being permitted”.

It said the council’s condition could be viewed as “unnecessary and onerous”.

The council spokesman said that in deciding to appeal to the Planning and Environment Court the council was “simply exercising its rights to further present its case to what we believe is the correct jurisdiction in order to protect our adopted Planning Scheme and achieve what our residents have told us are their desired outcomes.”

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