Owners’ fight pays off

By David Schout

A retired couple have taken the fight to both builders and council over a gantry erected directly outside their CBD apartment window.

After months of letters and complaints about the structure’s impact on privacy and natural light, their persistence finally paid off when the structure was removed in July.

Judith and Michael McCann returned to their 131 La Trobe St building on February 13 to see the structure assembled on Bennetts Lane for nearby building works.

The 15-year CBD residents rent out the affected apartment and live upstairs in the same building themselves. 

“We didn’t even see the permit – we didn’t have a chance. We arrived back and the gantry was in place. We didn’t get to ask why it was that height or how long it will be there for,” Mrs McCann explained.

The permit, issued by the City of Melbourne, was granted to builder Hamilton Marino for 12 months.

Soon after the gantry was erected, however, tenants decided to vacate because workers were operating directly outside their window, severely impacting their privacy. 

As a result, the McCanns were out of pocket.

“We’re good citizens, we pay our rates and do things by the book, and I just think this is unfair,” she said at the time.

The builder had informed the building’s owners’ corporation (OC) of the impending structure, but the OC had failed to pass this onto the McCanns.

They, therefore, had no opportunity to lodge an appeal against its placement. 

After several verbal and written complaints that followed, council officers visited the apartment in early June and agreed it would be difficult to lease.

The following week a meeting was organised with both council site services officers and the builder, who informed them the gantry could not be lowered. 

More objections followed, until finally it was agreed the gantry would be removed.

However, there are conflicting reports as to how this decision was arrived at. 

In a letter to the building’s OC, Hamilton Marino said the council had “asked us to remove the gantry earlier than previously arranged”.

Yet when contacted by CBD News, the council said it was the builder’s call.

“While the builder was entitled to leave the gantry in place until the permit expired in February 2020, they devised a solution which allowed the gantry to be removed while also ensuring suitable public protection is maintained,” a spokesperson said. 

The council did not respond to questions whether they had erred in permitting the gantry. 

Mrs McCann said she was glad their resolve paid off. 

“We are confident that our persistence led to the removal of the gantry. It was a stressful experience but we are satisfied with the outcome. We now intend to pursue the builder for compensation for loss of rental income.”

She was, however, disappointed the saga dragged on for so long.

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