Council to loosen its grip on holiday lets

With only six weeks to go until the public exhibition for council’s Draft Local Environment Plan (DLEP) 2013 expires, experienced town planning consultant and Leura resident Max Fragar is calling on ratepayers to carefully consider and comment on the complex planning instrument.

Mr Fragar said while the council has managed to translate many of the features and protections in its current LEPs — despite being required by the state government to conform to a new standardised format — he’s noticed there are still changes proposed that may not benefit the region.

One of these is a plan to drop a requirement for property owners to apply for permission to undertake holiday or short term lets. 

Under Draft LEP 2013 development consent is not required for the use of a dwelling/house for the purpose of tourist and visitor accommodation (except bed and breakfast and farm stay type accommodation) if the use is only short term, does not involve more than eight overnight guests and “does not interfere generally with the amenity of the neighbourhood in any way”.

The proposed changes defines short term as “a situation where any guest stays for a period of less than 60 days in any 12 month period and has a principal place of residence elsewhere.” 

Katoomba resident Inge Riebe told the Gazette on Monday that while she lives next to holiday lets “run by very understanding and co-operative owners” she fears any loosening of council regulations could lead to “exacerbating the problems that can exist at holiday lets, like unreasonable noise levels and lack of street parking,” she said.

“The sense of neighbourhood safety could be lost too and there would be no avenue left to make a complaint, other than to call the police.”

Mr Fragar agreed, saying holiday lets are an important part of the local economy but if the rules regarding them are changed “each house beside your property could potentially operate as a holiday let”.

“Currently you would need to submit a management plan (to council) to holiday let your property and there would be a bond paid so if there was a problem and the police were called several times for example, the property owner could lose their bond,” he said.

Mr Fragar said setting a limit of eight overnight guests per holiday let without requiring approval was problematic not only because that could be too crowded for some properties, but because applying for holiday lets for larger gatherings associated with weddings or several families, even in suitably larger properties, would be prohibited.

He said now was the time for residents and ratepayers to carefully examine, discuss and understand what’s potentially good, bad or otherwise in DLEP 2013 and begin “genuine debate on the big issues”.

“In my 47 years in planning, my experience is that big mistakes in planning happen if issues are not properly considered and debated.”

For more information about DLEP 2013, visit council’s information site http://bluemountainshaveyoursay.com.au/draftlep2013

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