Blackburn South Scouts Hall – Backgrouund

To be attributed to Whitehorse City Council Mayor, Councillor Denise Massoud.

Whitehorse City Council first received a noise complaint from a resident about the Scout Hall at 20 McCracken Avenue, Blackburn South allegedly being used as a rehearsal space for performing arts in early April 2023.

This site is residentially zoned.

The resident also submitted a petition to Council on behalf of the Shawlands Reserve Residents Committee.

Council contacted Scouts Victoria about the ownership and current use of the Scout Hall. Council advised Scouts Victoria they may require a planning permit for the current operation.

In May 2023, Council updated the complainant and met with Scouts Australia where they claimed ‘existing use rights’ for the building’s use.

‘Existing use rights’ refers to a planning concept that allows a use which may be otherwise prohibited or require a planning permit. The right can be established in various ways including proof of continuous use.

Scouts Australia also advised Council about sound reduction works they carried out on the building and when and how the hall was being used. Noise controls were also installed, including a noise limiter.

Council also advised the complainant that non-residential noise is a matter for the EPA. Council is aware noise complaints have been lodged with the EPA.

In June 2023, Council sent a Directions Letter and Contravention Notice to Scouts Australia, which provided guidance about how the site is to be used within the residential zone.

In July 2023, Council advised Scouts Australia to lodge a Planning Information Request to be reviewed by Statutory Planners, following a response to Council’s Contravention Notice which raised ‘Existing use Rights’.

In August 2023, Council received the Planning Information Request from Scouts Victoria and temporarily suspended our compliance process of the use of the site. A Freedom of Information Request was also lodged by the complainant.

In September 2023, Council’s Director City Development and Assistant Manager Statutory Planning met with the Scouts to discuss the noise complaints and advise on the correct documents needed to establish ‘Existing use Rights’.

Council regularly updated the complainant about the current situation with the Scout Hall, however in October 2023 the complainant filed a complaint about Council’s FOI processing time. The Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner (OVIC) investigated the matter and dismissed it in December 2023. A second complaint was also raised to OVIC about Council’s Planning Department withholding documents – this matter is still being investigated.

The complainant lodged a different complaint with the Ombudsman alleging Council did not take sufficient action to resolve the issue. The complaint was closed in December 2023 with no further action required.

In December 2023, Scouts Australia submitted an application to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for the Scout Hall to be granted existing use rights. This matter is currently before VCAT.

The complainant also asked VCAT for a temporary order to stop use at the site, but VCAT decided not to issue it. The request for a more permanent order will be considered in a hearing scheduled for May 2024.

To date Council has taken action within available legislation to respond to the complainants concerns about the use of the site, and this is also now being considered by VCAT. Non-residential noise remains an issue for the EPA to investigate.

/Public Release. View in full here.