In a win for those opposed to inappropriate development in Melbourne, Socialist Alliance councillor for Merri-Bek Sue Bolton’s motion to refuse a planning permit to a seven-storey apartment building that would have blocked a neighbour’s access to sunlight passed unanimously on March 22.
The proposed apartments would have overshadowed the neighbouring family’s single-storey home, leaving them with just two hours of sunlight a day.
The family have an 18-year-old son on the autism spectrum who can rarely leave the house, meaning his recreational space would have been seriously affected. The overshadowing would have also limited the usefulness of their solar panels and battery.
The area in Brunswick was rezoned as an activity centre, which allows higher and denser development and overrides the normal residential building code’s requirement of five hours sunlight a day. But the council meeting on March 22 unanimously found that the proposed development contravened the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act, because it infringed on rights to privacy, family and home.
Councillor Monica Harte, a community independent on the Sue Bolton team, told the meeting she was opposing the development because sunlight access is a “human need”.
“Humans need sunlight, whether we’re someone with a disability, whether we’re someone who’s ageing and has osteoporosis, whether we’re someone with cancer who needs to sit in our own backyard and have the benefit of sunlight.”
While Victoria has legislation that says residents have a right to sunlight, and that overshadowing of existing solar panels and hot water systems has to be considered in residential planning decisions, developers can simply reject the considerations in most cases.