An issue of relevance to many is that ACT Planning is currently finalising Draft Variation 346 to the Territory Plan to reduce solar access requirements. The impact of this variation is that there will be less protection of solar access on the northern boundary of an existing house when a neighbouring dwelling is extended or rebuilt. The current demand for large houses in older suburbs means that extensions and rebuilds (especially two-storey rebuilds) have the potential to negatively impact the residential amenity of neighbouring homes through significant loss of their solar access. If DV346 is accepted, neighbours to re-development will have even less protection of their solar access than is currently provided.
The motivation for this change comes from architects and developers who believe that land owners have a “right” to develop their blocks to the maximum extent because land is so expensive. They assert that current building provisions require the design of a new house or extension to be “compromised” in order to conform to the required building envelope.
Currently, the building envelope is determined using permitted boundary setbacks, a notional 2.4 metre fence on the southern boundary (the solar fence) and a maximum building height of 8.5 metres. Draft Variation 346 proposes to increase the height of the solar fence to 3 metres which will provide a larger building envelope and more overshadowing of the adjacent block on the southern boundary.
Currently, ACTPLA considers that, if an existing home will receive 3 hours of solar access to northern living areas between the hours of 9am and 3pm on 21 June (the winter solstice), then overshadowing caused by an extension or rebuild on a neighbouring block is reasonable. The extent of this solar penetration is not defined, i.e. it could cover the entire wall height or only 30% or even less. This standard will remain unchanged but the FoHV committee believes that this is not a reasonable approach for older suburbs where residents might currently enjoy several hours of sunshine on their northern boundary. This is an issue which FoHV intends to pursue once DV346 has been dealt with.