Call for tougher rules on builders

By Meg Hill and Sean Car

Residents have called on the City of Melbourne to crack down on after-hours construction, asserting that builders can break the current rules with impunity.

Local residents from Banque 88 (Clarke St) and Bella Apartments (City Rd) wrote to Southbank Local News last month sharing their frustrations about construction company Icon Builders allegedly carrying out works after hours consistently between the hours of 2am and 4am at 260 City Rd.

Owners’ corporation (OC) member from Banque 88 Nicolo Bolognesi said after one occasion, when trucks had entered the work site at 2am generating noise for two hours, he had contacted council which he claimed did nothing to help.

“I called the council and found out that they did not have an after-hours permit but they didn’t do anything about it,” Mr Bolognesi said.

“I believe the point here is that regardless of whether the construction company has an after-hours permit, the council should place boundaries. They must consider that this is a residential area and people need to rest and sleep in peace.”

A spokesperson for the City of Melbourne (CoM) argued the builder hadn’t breached any rules to date and that it did have a permit to undertake certain works after hours.

“They (the builders) had a permit to deliver “piling rig” machinery at that time. Vic Roads does not allow certain wide load vehicles on City Rd between 12am and 6am and this is the only time this activity can happen,” the spokesperson said.

However, residents argue that works have been going beyond trucks simply entering and exiting the site.

The council, according to limits set by the Victorian Government, can issue fines up to $2000 for out-of-hours work.

“The area is a nightmare,” Mr Bolognesi said. “We are surrounded by construction sites.”

But residents say builders regularly start work before local laws allow because their cost-benefit analysis shows that time savings outweigh the fine.

A spokesperson for council said: “The fine for carrying out illegal building works is set at the maximum amount council can set under the Local Government Act 1989 being 20 penalty units or $2000. The Sentencing Act 1991 sets local law penalty units at $100.”

Developer Lendlease was fined $2000 for starting early on January 24 at its Charter Hall development on Lonsdale St in the CBD, and the Brady Group was fined on January 25 for a breach at its nearby development on Little Lonsdale.

While not after hours, developer of 18 Moray St ABD Group has been issued multiple fines by council for breaches to its construction management plan. Other local developers have regularly absorbed fines for similar breaches.

President of East Enders, a resident group based in the CBD, Jenny Eltham said $2000 was a “drop in the ocean” to some companies.

“It should be three strikes and you’re out, the site gets shut for a week,” she said. “$2000 is nothing to construction companies. It offers no deterrent.”

Ms Eltham said CoM staff responsible for issuing the fines were as frustrated as residents, but had their hands tied.

“The City of Melbourne needs to have the powers to shut down a site when continual breaches of permit occur,” she said.

What do you think about construction bans? Email [email protected]

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