RESIDENTS along the Murray Valley Hwy have been told they have until October 5 to permanently shut or remove gates at the back of their property.
Homeowners along Illawarra Dve and Willunga Crt presented a petition to Campaspe Shire Council at the September meeting to fight the decision but were unsuccessful.
Meaning some people will have to permanently close off illegal gates they have used for about the past 25 years.
Council said in July this year a complaint was received that vehicles were parked at the rear of properties along the Murray Valley Hwy road reserve.
“An inspection revealed that a number of properties backing onto the Murray Valley Hwy from Warren St through to Ogilvie Ave had installed gates in their fences to provide rear access from their properties,” shire development general manager Paul McKenzie said in a report to councillors.
“It was clear from the amount of vehicles parking in the road reserve abutting the fence and from the tracks across the road reserve, that vehicles were frequently accessing the Murray Valley Hwy.”
Council said this posed a safety concern and was the reason a council reserve was created at the rear of the properties when the housing estate was developed.
This reserve meant direct access to the highway for vehicles would be restricted for residential properties from Warren St up to near the Ogilvie Ave roundabout.
“The road reserve also contains a variety of infrastructure that has the potential to be damaged by vehicles making their way to the roadside,” Mr McKenzie said.
“In the area between Warren St and Butcher St there is a walking and cycling track. Constant vehicular crossing of the track is not within its design specifications and will lead to failure of the path before its expected life is reached.”
A letter was sent on July 23 to all properties that back onto the Murray Valley Hwy indicating it was illegal to have access from the rear of their property onto the highway without a valid permit.
For residents, this was the first they had heard of the issue.
“We’re looking for consultation and resolution to see a way through this,” chief petitioner Max Prendergast said.
“Some sheds on the fence line have doors (facing out toward the highway). Did council approve these?”
Council’s planning and building manager Andrew Fletcher admitted structures such as sheds may have been given approval without acknowledging that there would be an entry out onto the highway reserve.
Mr Fletcher also said pedestrian access to the highway wouldn’t be a concern so long as residents applied for a permit and the planning department was able to assess properties case-by-case.
For residents, it is another source of stress in what Mr Prendergast described as an already difficult time.
“There are a lot of people who can’t afford to take out gates and find a place to store their caravans,” Mr Prendergast said.
“It’s a lot of stress people didn’t need.”
At the council meeting, councillors tried to waive the almost $200 charge for permits and extend the deadline to rectify access until December 31; however, this was not passed.
Cr Leigh Wilson expressed concern that waiving fees would set a precedent that could see people “willingly and knowingly breaking the law” as they could apply for a retrospective permit for no fee.
And also that council process prevented the deadline being extended.
“It is reluctantly that I move this, but a response needs to go out to residents,” Cr Wilson said.
“I can understand how this came about and the frustration that this has happened after all these years.
“But I urge those residents to contact our planning department.”
Seconding the motion to write to the petitioner that council’s decision cannot be changed, Cr Neil Pankhurst said it wouldn’t benefit the landholders to allow the item to lapse.
“It does highlight that we do need to be mindful and take consideration of the different circumstances people are dealing with,” Cr Pankhurst said.
“I hope there are some learnings that come out of this matter. But I was a bit disappointed in the way the recommendation (from council staff) was worded.”