City of Boroondara demolishes Kew townhouses after ‘gross’ permit breach

Dec 15, 2016 Denham Sadler

Two brand new townhouses in Kew have been demolished by the local council after the developer “grossly” exceeded the planning permit. The new development on Normanby Road was ruled to have breached the Boroondara Council’s planning permit by VCAT including by height and its boundaries and was demolished this month. The two townhouses were constructed at 11.5 metres and 12.15 metres high, well above the council’s nine metre height restriction, Boroondara Mayor Phillip Healey says.

“They weren’t missing by millimetres or centimetres, they were missing by a lot,” Cr Healey said. “This wasn’t marginal, this was grossly over where it should be.”

The original building permit to construct the two townhouses was obtained by Nicholas Pantas in September 2012. After a planning officer visited the construction site, an investigation found that Mr Pantas had made “numerous unauthorised changes” to the development.

This decision was then appealed at Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in August 2015, where the developer was given until February this year to amend the developments or have them demolished. The City of Boroondara also took action against Mr Pantas in the Magistrates Court in December last year; he was fined $8000 in penalties and costs.

The National Australia Bank then took possession of the property but were unable to meet the permit and the townhouses were subsequently demolished this month.

“The builder’s action was downright illegal,” Cr Healey said. “This is a costly reminder that planning permits and approved plans must be complied with.”

Kosa Architects helped the developer to obtain the permits and designed the building, but principal Stephen Kosa says the drawings weren’t followed. “The builder didn’t follow the town planning permits or building planning permits,” Mr Kosa said. “Unfortunately the builder decided to try to maximise what he thought to be the end outcome and didn’t follow the approved drawings. We end no involvement in the end construction.”

Despite attempts, Mr Kosa said it was impossible to alter the buildings so they would meet the permits. “The buildings were virtually irretrievable and to bring them back into compliance would virtually be a demolition,” he said.

Cr Healey said the move had enjoyed strong support from the local community. “It’s very pleasing to get supported because we are given the task of managing this and enforcing it, but we don’t always get this level of support,” he said. “We have a responsibility.”

With the two townhouses now completely gone, a new permit will be submitted for the Kew property, and Cr Healey urged the developer to work with the council, not against it. “Work with us – don’t come to us after you’ve done it,” he says. “Work with the process and then these sort of things don’t happen.”

The City of Boroondara has had several recent wins against developers and landowners in court, with a Kew landowner fined $13,500 in May for attempting to remove native trees without a permit, and a builder in Balwyn North fined $6500 for failing to protect two trees during construction.