Ararat Rural City Council’s municipal building surveyor has reported that possible changes to the Building Practice Notes will add considerably to the cost of development on farms and place increased burdens on the farming community.ARARAT – Ararat Rural City Council’s municipal building surveyor has reported that possible changes to the Building Practice Notes, which indicate that in future toilets and disabled access will need to be installed in new farm sheds, will add considerably to the cost of development on farms and place increased burdens on the farming community.

Municipal building surveyor Neil Povey attended a Building Commission seminar, where the draft Building Practice Notes were presented. The Building Code of Australia is updated annually in May and the seminars are to inform building practitioners on upcoming requirements.

Mr Povey said different types of sheds are treated differently in the Planning Scheme. A planning and building permit is required for a shed to store equipment and goods including motor vehicles, and must be associated with a dwelling, whereas a shed for storing farm produce or goods is treated separately, and doesn’t require a building permit in most circumstances.

Council has exempted these farm sheds from building permits in the past, but in the future, as a result of the practice notes, farm buildings other than small hay sheds and small machinery sheds (size not defined) will be classified a factories (Class 8) and building permits will be required to be approved before construction commences. By being classified as Class 8, essential services requirements such as toilets and disabled access will need to be installed, and this will have considerable cost implications.

“I am of the opinion that there are very few instances when these essential services/disabled facilities are warranted for typical farm buildings, and this is further reinforced by the history of few if any risk incidents associated with most of these buildings and their occupants,” Mr Povey said.

“These regulatory requirements will cause expensive additional costs for the preparation of these documents, and will significantly increase the building permit fee costs in line with commercial building development rates. Approval time delays will result, and in our case sourcing alternative solutions/exemptions will be a major issue, as I am not aware of anyone in this region who has the skills required to prepare suitable submissions. Such documentation could cost up to $1000 per solution, and there could be several alternative solutions required per permit.

“There are obviously some instances when some levels of ESM’s are justified, and this generally is when the development involves the employment of staff. However in the instances of dairies, large haysheds, piggeries etcetera, workforce involvement is minimal if nonexistent for most of the time, and the exemption process is simply another financial impediment on the rural sector.

“I am of the opinion that either separate classifications or regulations should be incorporated for various farms buildings, or a Minister’s Direction or similar should be able to be issued by the commission (as exists in South Australia) which provides legal exemption from irrelevant regulatory requirements.”

Cr Gwenda Allgood said this issue astounded her.

“These farmers are doing it tough and I haven’t met a farmer yet that isn’t very conscious about everybody getting access to their shearing shed,” she said.

“This exemption needs to be provided on an individual case basis and these to be prepared by accredited access consultants by which there is no one in this region. Where do you bring them from? This is just absolutely going over the top, I don’t understand where these people are coming from.

“The documentation for a start is going to cost a thousand dollars and there could be several alternative solutions required for a permit.

“Who’s going to build any sort of a shed? If you’ve got horses, look out, you’re going to have to have a disabled toilet.

“The mind absolutely boggles as to where these people are coming from. I’m sure if they came out and drove around the country side and had a bit of a look at how we look after each other they would realise that these things are absolutely ludicrous, how could somebody come up with this?

“It’s really serious and you have got to stand up here nearly every meeting and fight these things. If you don’t fight them they go though to the keeper and you have to put up with them.

“It’s just ridiculous.”

Cr Anne Marshall said sometimes toilets were required for shearing sheds, and probably some of the very modern shearing sheds would have them.

“But I think that disabled access for that industry, which requires really able bodied people to do the work, is a bit far fetched and I really hope that I don’t have to put a toilet in the next hay shed we build,” she said.

“I think if you’ve got some type of factory type process in these sheds, well, yes… but for most farm sheds it is certainly not a requirement.”

CEO Andrew Evans said the requirements would not be retrospective.

Mr Evans said that while the requirements were only in draft stage at the moment it was expected for them to be implemented.

Council agreed to write to the Building Commission, Victorian Farmers Federation, Member for Western Victoria Simon Ramsay, the MAV, all State Local Members – including Members for Lowan and Ripon, Hugh Delahunty and Joe Helper – and other appropriate bodies highlighting the issue.

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