By Robert Muir
Federation Council is seeking to have the minimum lots size in the RU1 Primary Production Zone reduced to permit a dwelling following a unanimous resolution at its latest monthly meeting on June 25.
Council will seek approval from the State Government to vary the minimum lots size from 250 hectares to 129 following a development application in respect of a Lavis Road Hopefield property.
The applicant, Julie Misisti C/Habitat Planning provided a long list of reasons why the existing development standard is unreasonable and why sufficient environmental planning grounds justify contravening the development standard.
In her report, Federation Council’s director development and environment Susan Appleyard said the application met all the objectives of the RU1 Primary Production Zone except the lot size.
The proposed development only seeks to replace a previous dwelling that existed on the property and does not seek to construct a new dwelling on land that has been historically vacant. “On this particular lot there used to be a house,” the director said.
“It burnt down more than a year ago.”
Other reasons advanced were: no loss of rural land to agriculture; the subject land is currently only used for broadacre farming purposes and the small portion of land for a dwelling will not fragment or preclude this land from continuing to be used for broadacre farming; the subject land is located in an area that is already highly fragmented into smaller rural holdings and for which a 250ha minimum lot size is meaningless; the land is close to the boundary of Federation and Greater Hume Councils with the latter having a minimum lot size of 100ha.
In the northern half of the new Federation Council area, the minimum lot size is 100 ha which is at odds with the 250ha in the southern half.
The applicant intends to undertake a more intensive agricultural activity on the land by introducing irrigation via a bore.
“This significantly changes the agricultural productivity of the land and creates the opportunity for a commercially viable farm on a smaller holding,” Ms Appleyard said.
“The subject land adjoins a number of other rural properties that also contain rural dwellings.”
Cr Fred Longmire said times have changed and moved the motion which was seconded by Cr Gail Law.
The long-serving councillor placed immense significance on the director’s recommendation to endorse the application and seek State Government approval, saying it was “the most invaluable thing since I’ve been on council”.
“I think it’s a real good step forward in regard to what our planning outlook is,” Cr Longmire said.
He spoke about farms getting larger and consequential loss of people in the rural areas.
“People can build a house on their land and it can start to reinstate the population in the rural area.”
Cr Andrew Kennedy gave further support. “I can’t see why such a big lot can only have one house,” he said.
“Smaller farms can be used growing grapes, whatever – let’s enhance the rural area.”
After previously experiencing the same type of situation, council’s General Manager Adrian Butler spoke in favour of the motion.
“In my experience at Lachlan Shire Council, the council enjoyed no minimum lot size until the new standards Local Environmental Plans came in, in their case around 2013,” he told councillors.
“Before this, the council relied on a purely merit based system for subdivisions in rural zones, where the lots proposed were intended to have a dwelling entitlement.
“Smaller farms can have just as much or more investment in local businesses, on a per acre basis than larger farms in my experience.”
Mr Butler said Lachlan Shire was then forced to adopt a 400 hectare minimum and this now stops the ability for council to approve small farms, and allow those who are not inheriting land or in a position to afford 400 ha plus, such as some shearers and truck drivers, and other farm workers who would like to get a go on the land.
“Small farms can also play an important role in re-populating areas as long as the lot size is sensible, not to protect farm land and avoid non farmers on land that creates complaints against farming,” he said.
“For example, 100 hectares such as the current Urana Shire planning scheme would seem reasonable. They can also be great innovators and look to other new and emerging opportunities.”
The General Manager advised Federation Council will need to be aware of this when preparing the new plan for the entire area, merging the current different lot sizes of 400 and 100 in the Corowa plan and 100 in the Urana plan.
“In my opinion Federation Council should push strongly for a 100 or so hectare minimum lot size in rural areas for lots where a dwelling entitlement is sought,” Mr Butler said.
The Federation Council area currently has three minimum lot sizes in the RU1 - Primary Production Zone: former Hume Shire - 400 hectares, former Corowa Shire - 250 hectares and former Urana Shire - 100 hectares.
Part of the strategic plan for the entire Federation Council area, a review of minimum lot sizes to provide consistency will be required.
Should agreement be given by the NSW Department of Planning Infrastructure and Environment, the development application will be assessed and determined under Federation Council staff delegation.