Shire ‘no’ to project delay liability

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hastings housingMORNINGTON Peninsula Shire denies any responsibility for delays and costs associated with a $6 million affordable housing project on contaminated land at Hastings.

The shire issued a planning permit for 20 houses to be built at the corner of Marine Parade and Church St but says it was up to the applicant, Low Cost Housing Pty Ltd, to say if there were any problems with the site.

“It is incumbent on the permit applicant to submit all information relative to the proposed development including information about the existing conditions of the land in order to allow a full and proper assessment of the planning scheme by council officers,” the shire’s statutory planning manager Angela Hughes said.

“The plan submitted to council showing the existing conditions did not show (the alleged) fuel tanks in the ground.

“In addition, the planning controls that applied to the site then (and now) did not indicate that the site had previously been used in a way that may have caused contamination.”

The land was previously been used as a service station and the remains of fuel tanks and corroded underground metal piping were only discovered after the houses were nearly completed.

Workers have been removing old plumbing and contaminated soil from the site.

Brett Wake, state manager for Community Housing which owns the houses, said last week that lawyers were investigating if any legal action could be taken to recover compensation for delays and extra costs faced by the project.

Mr Wake told The News on Friday that the shire had contributed $200,000 towards buying the land which was selected as a site for low cost housing by the Frankston Peninsula Carers Group.

“We’re just looking at where we stand. We were not around when all that happened [the site was chosen], only after all procedures were in place.”

Community Housing had become involved “after council and the carers group had already entered an unconditional contract” to buy the land.

“There was no information available about the land’s previous history,” Mr Wake said.

He said Community Housing had been given two reports about the property “and we relied on one which, clearly, was not correct”.

“We could never get a copy of the first one which was more accurate and we are investigating if we can be compensated.”

Ms Hughes said Community Housing “will need to get relevant approvals from the Environment Protection Agency, and potentially through their building surveyor, to deal with the site appropriately”.

She said there would be no repercussions for the shire, which issued the permit.

“The planning permit was assessed against the planning controls that applied to the site,” Ms Hughes said.

“This assessment and our decision to grant a planning permit remains valid, regardless of what has later been discovered on the site.

“There may be repercussions on the developer to do more work to the site to get it to the standard at which the development can proceed and/or occupancy certificates be granted.”

Ms Hughes said no action could be taken by the project’s owner “against council under the planning and Environment Act”.

Mr Wake said it was hoped the EPA would initially “clear” six of the units at the corner of Church and King streets for occupation.

He said the office of housing within the state Human Services Department had helped finance soil checks.

When completed, the “affordable” homes will offer secure long-term rental accommodation to senior citizens, families on low incomes, and people with intellectual and physical disabilities who can live independently with support.

Dubbed the “Hastings model”, the project is being built with money from state and federal governments as well as the shire and Frankston Peninsula Carers.

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