Page 1687 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 8 May 2013

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Recommendation 4 of the standing committee’s report 15 on draft variation 306 recommended that ESDD consider changes that would make development to one edge of the block more feasible. In response to this recommendation as well as to industry concerns regarding wasted space on the southern side of blocks, the solar envelope provision was amended to allow more flexibility in relation to building close to the side boundary. The solar fence has been extended from 1.8 metres to 2.4 metres over a specified 10-metre section of the southern boundary. This change allows a building, ordinarily a garage, to be located closer to the side boundary in the forward portion of the block.

Sections of the housing industry cite houses in the new Molonglo suburb of Wright as examples of the poor outcome the solar access provisions will have on the built form. The Coombs and Wright precinct code contains similar solar provisions to those found in variation 306; so development there does provide an insight into the application of the solar fence rules.

Opponents of the variation have suggested that blocks must be excavated to ensure compliance with the solar fence provisions. If so, significant site cuts would be widespread across Wright. But this is not the case. It is the choice of the builder to sink the house into the ground. This can be for a variety of reasons, including the dictates of the stock design which they are unwilling to change on a sloping block or for a two-storey or split-level design where the garage is below living areas. But these cases are very much in the minority.

Variation 306 does not require garages or any other part of the home to be excavated. This is especially the case now that the proposed solar fence is raised to a height of 2.4 metres over a 10-metre section of the southern boundary. In its report, the standing committee found that it was a reasonable expectation that all landowners should expect solar access on their land. The committee supported the proposed solar access provisions.

The reaction to the new solar access provisions is reminiscent of the discussion in 2002 on the proposed garden city variation which introduced building envelopes for the first time. It was suggested then that building costs would rise and that the new restrictions unnecessarily restricted design freedom. Despite the criticisms, housing designs adapted. Building construction continued and the solar access of neighbouring blocks was significantly improved. Now with the issues of energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions and the consequences of a change in climate even more pressing, there is a need for further changes in relation to the solar access provisions.

The standing committee made 21 recommendations in its report, which was released in September last year. The government agreed to 13 of them, noted one and agreed in principle to the remainder. The first recommendation was to proceed with the variation, subject to the recommendations set out in the committee’s report. Accordingly, the final variation 306 document was amended and approved in February this year. Dissenting comments by Mr Coe were included in the standing committee’s report on the draft variation.

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