Farm zone nod

Farming activities are expected to intensify for a notable Rochford equine property as Macedon Ranges Shire councillors went against the grain to grant a discretionary use permit.
Councillors approved a second abode for a 30.43ha property at 556 Boundary Road, which falls within the Farming Zone with strict rules to limit fragmentation of agricultural land.
The move went against council officer recommendation but Cr Bill West said it was an “exceptional one-off” case and felt strongly about the need for council support.
“Having inspected the property I well understand the owners’ need to be close to their bloodstock, which in foaling season requires 24-hour surveillance,” he said.
“It’s not a case of a farming zone property having a farmhouse and wanting another one in contravention of the planning scheme. One has to see it to understand what’s there.”
Cr West explained that a permit issued for the property nearly 20 years ago had included a horse arena with attached worker accommodation and an additional farmhouse. The permit had lapsed before the farmhouse was built and the existing quarters were inadequate for permanent living.
The property owners are established dressage trainers and breeders who moved from Chintin with the vision of expanding their business, which on-site living will allow.
“What we are trying to do is intensify this business and increase the output of that property,” property owner Jason York appealed to councillors last week.
The decision came down to the use of the existing building, and Crs Andrew Twaits and Natasha Gayfer agreed it was clear it was never intended to be a house.
“The existing dwelling is indiscernible from the equestrian area and stables… If there was no one living in it, you wouldn’t know it was a dwelling,” Cr Twaits said.
He said the proposal was “not against the spirit of the planning scheme”, but not all agreed.
Cr Mandi Mees argued there was strong strategic direction to protect agricultural land against fragmentation and, despite the zone’s discretionary use, felt community consultation was necessary.
Cr Henry Bleeck opposed the proposal on the grounds of a missing farm plan, however, this was included as a requirement in an extensive list of permit conditions.
Planning and environment director Angela Hughes confirmed a farm plan would be required to progress the permit and could be refused by council officers.
When put to the vote, Crs Anderson, Bleeck and Mees initially voted against the proposal, with all others in support. A division saw a 7-2 vote recorded when Cr Anderson changed her vote.

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