Heburn Road Passes VCAT but won’t pass fire Regs

This is one of those red tape madness stories that is bound to have more to say before it is done…

Well folks, the decision was handed down Sept 6th 2012 on 20-24 Hepburn Road and it’s not good I’m afraid.

A permit has been granted and the full decision is attached.  P3568 2011 Khoo & Ors v Manningham CC (kp 040912)

We are finding it difficult to offer any sensible reflection on how VCAT arrived at this decision. But despite now holding a planning permit, this building still cannot receive a building permit as currently designed. There will still need to be significant amendments to the plans.

As we read the decision we still can’t comprehend why it focuses so much on minuscule matters and given scant or no attention to what we felt were much more important matters. We can’t understand how readily VCAT were willing to accept everything put by Council and nothing put by us. But can we say this, we could not have mounted a better case, argued more strongly nor found any more holes, and it’s bitterly disappointing that nothing about the decision reflects that.

So it just goes to highlight how broke the system is and how crucial the vote by Councillors is. In a few months there will be an election and you’ll have a say in who represents us at Council. Be sure you make your vote count.

Kind regards.




1 Comment

  1. Kelvin Khoo says:

    I spoke at VCAT on the Access and Egress issues for this development (Hepburn Rd)

    A couple of notes:

    The BCA has a stipulation that stricter rules apply when a building is above 25m high. This is because:

    As explained by the BCA Guide to Volume 1 the provision regarding an effective height of 25 metres recognises the effective operating height for fire brigade ladders and other fire-fighting and rescue equipment. Above this height, fire?fighting, rescue and egress
    problems increase considerably

    The point that is not immediately obvious is that the Building Code requirements for Access and Egress are not only for the provision of safe escape for residents, it also protects emergency services personnel when entering the building to assist. The MFB, Police, Ambulance and SES have a primary responsibility to ensure the safety of their members. They will not be able to assist if the rescue path within in the building is unsafe.

    Whilst the most obvious reason for Emergency Exits are for fire, this is clearly not the only reason for having compliant exits.

    So additional state of the art fire sprinklers (as proposed by the Architect) may slow down the spread of a fire but will be ineffective if there are other emergencies requiring evacuation (like gas or chemical leaks etc).
    The best outcome is still to have the requisite number of emergencies exits as clearly defined by the building code.

    The Emergency Management Plan at the planning stages would certainly be useful to help inform the councillors decision when voting on a planning application. In much the same way as a traffic report or environmental impact assessment. The Emergency Management Plan would be submitted at a cost to the developer (not the rate payers).

    This Emergency Management Plan would need to also indicate if the planning application complies with the Access and Egress provisions of the BCA directly (Deem-to-Satisfy) or if Alternate Solutions are proposed. Where Alternate Solutions are proposed, MFB is required to provide a report and consent (as per current regulations).

    The council planning department are concerned about their ability to enforce. We do not have to rewrite the Building ACT and seek enforcement of the BCA on Access and Egress at the planning stage. This would still have to be the responsibility (and liability) of the Relevant Building Surveyor. All we ask is that as part of the planning approval process that resident safety is adequately considered with an Emergency Management Plan.

    If the Emergency Management Plan reviews the development and provides expert advice that the building is safe, the council officers and councillors would be able to make a more informed decision. If the report recommends more exits, then this would only aid the developer as the changes can be made at the planning stages, and not be subject to bandaid fixes at building permit/VCAT stages- or worse still – result in a building that cannot be built.

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