Spotlight on Unauthorised Residential Accommodation

Byron Shire Council is taking a tough stance on unauthorised developments in the Shire, starting with a 15 month moratorium from 18 June to help resolve the issue across the Shire and reduce the risks unauthorised residential accommodation pose to human health, safety and the environment.

Following a resolution of Council, staff will now be preparing an Unauthorised Residential Accommodation Policy.

The aim of the policy will be to confirm the planning pathways available and legal consequences that will apply to landowners seeking to rectify existing unauthorised residential accommodation on their land in the Byron Shire.

“Everyone needs to understand that all unauthorised development in the Byron Shire will be discovered eventually,” Council’s Director of Sustainable Environment and Economy Shannon Burt said.

“Unauthorised residential accommodation such as dwellings, granny flats, converted sheds and modified caravans pose an unacceptable risk to Council, community and emergency services responders on matters of safety to life and property, the environment, particularly in times of a natural disaster event. The 2019/20 bushfires amplified this risk, state-wide, where individuals and families were unknown, and living on land that Council and or emergency service responders were trying to have evacuated.”

“As part of Council’s current unauthorised development investigations, we rely on property records, site inspections, aerial photographs and neighbourhood complaints.” Ms Burt said.

Council’s new initiative, involves a 15 month moratorium on enforcement action (from 18 June 2020). Only landowners who have unauthorised residential accommodation on their land that is not presenting an unacceptable risk to human health, life and safety or the environment will be eligible for this.

“To be clear, the term moratorium is being used to denote a period of time during which the Council will delay immediate enforcement action as per the resolution. Instead a ‘compliance schedule’ will be agreed to between Council and the landowner allowing a fair and transparent assessment process of their individual circumstances to be completed. The ‘compliance agreement’ will be a full user pays process in accordance with Council’s fees and charges,” Ms Burt said.

Any development built after 18 June 2020 will not be subject to the moratorium. Immediate enforcement action will apply under Council’s adopted Enforcement Policy. The assessment principles outlined in the May report and adopted by Councillors will form the basis of the new policy.

See Council Report No. 13.8

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