The Facts

Sydney council becomes aware of installation of caravan on local property

A Sydney council became aware of home owners in the local area who had converted an old caravan into a living area with a bedroom, en-suite and kitchenette without a stove or other cooking facilities.

The caravan was registered with Roads and Maritime Services as a caravan and had an attached vehicle identification number (VIN) plate. It had been renovated off site and transported to the home owner's property by a crane.

The caravan was connected to water, electricity and sewer and had temporary supports to keep it in place. The daughter of the home owners and her partner lived in the caravan.

Council inspects property and orders that caravan be removed

The council inspected the property and provided an order to the home owners that they must remove the caravan because it was not a caravan but a "structure" under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act (EPA Act), and therefore required development consent and approval by the council.

The home owners decided to challenge the council's order in the Land and Environment Court.

case a - The case for the home owners

case b - The case for the council

  • The caravan is not a "structure" under the EPA Act, it is a "movable dwelling" as defined by the Local Government Act (LG Act) and therefore exempt from the need for council approval.
  • To be a "moveable dwelling", the caravan must be on land that we own, installed in connection with our dwelling-house, used for human habitation only by us or members of our household, and maintained in a safe and healthy condition. We satisfy each of these tests.
  • Indeed, the fact that the caravan is a registered vehicle with the Roads and Maritime Services supports our argument that the caravan is not a permanent "structure".
  • Council's order is invalid and should be revoked.
  • The mobile structure cannot be described as a caravan or other portable device because at the time it was brought to the site by crane, or shortly afterwards, it was not used for human habitation.
  • Further, in order to be used for human habitation the structure must be capable of being a dwelling, but this structure cannot be a dwelling because it does not have a stove or other cooking facilities.
  • The mobile structure is therefore not a caravan or a moveable dwelling; rather it falls within the definition of a "structure" under section 4 of the EPA Act with the consequence that council consent and approval are required.
  • The order we have issued is valid and the mobile structure should be removed.

So, which case won?
Cast your judgment below to find out

Vote case A – the case for the home owners
Vote case B – the case for the council

Anneka Frayne
Kate Byrne
Environmental law, planning and protection
Stacks Law Firm

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