Council delay puts South Melbourne dreams on hold

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BRENT and Buzz Johnson had planned to move into their renovated South Melbourne cottage last week. But instead of unpacking, the young couple visited their empty block on Nelson Place.

The couple’s dream of building their own home ground to a halt in September and council red tape has meant a frustrating four-month wait for a permit to resume work.

Work on their house was brought to a standstill when the Johnson’s demolition contractor deemed the facade and chimney unsafe. Both features were meant to be retained under the original permit but the contractor demolished them without approval.

“He called us and said there was fire damage to the facade, cracks in the chimney, termites throughout the whole house and no footings at all,” Mr Johnson said. “He said everything had to be knocked down.”

The couple immediately contacted the council to seek an amendment to their permit to retrospectively allow for the removal of the facade and chimney. They said they were hand-balled between the planning and building departments, given the wrong information and questioned by an independent investigator.

Mrs Johnson broke down crying when the amendment was finally approved at last week’s council planning committee meeting.

A council spokesman said “due process” had been followed. “It has been dealt with as swiftly as possible,” the spokesman said.

But Albert Park MLA Martin Foley slammed the council over the case.

“They’re just genuine punters who the council thinks are some ogre property developers,” he said. “They’ve been sacrificed by a completely inflexible process.”

The Johnsons said the past four months has taken its toll.

“I fell to bits,” Mrs Johnson said. “All we ever wanted was to restore the things we were told wouldn’t stand up to renovation. It’s been an absolute disaster and the council still hasn’t said whether they’re still investigating us.”

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