Council wanted $11k over advertising spat

The owner of a Melbourne pharmacy has been told to pay his local Council more than $5000 after he installed unauthorised billboards around his shop

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal heard that the pharmacist put up two large advertising signs without the required planning permission.

One was attached above the verandah over the front window, facing into the street, and the other was on the back of the building, facing a public car park.

The signs listed the proprietor’s name and the name of his suburban pharmacy, which was subject to a heritage overlay.

The Tribunal heard that the local Council gave the pharmacy owner “numerous” opportunities to take the signs down, or apply for retrospective approval to erect them.

The pharmacist did neither of these things, and in March 2020, the Council applied for an enforcement order. The pharmacist did not supply a statement of grounds to the Tribunal.

At a September practice hearing, the Tribunal told the pharmacist to take down the signs by 18 December 2020.

At the most recent hearing, it noted that the pharmacist had failed to appear at a previous hearing and only attended another “when called by the Tribunal and provided no excuse for not attending”. This prolonged the proceedings.

The Council made a claim for costs of $11,110, including GST, saying that this sum included payment to their legal counsel, and a VCAT lodgement fee of $1,244.

“The invoices provided indicate that the Council is seeking indemnity payment of the legal counsel fees it incurred,” the Tribunal noted.

It noted that there had been a clear breach of the Council’s Planning Scheme.

“The [pharmacy owner] was provided with numerous opportunities to address this non-compliance prior to the Council lodging this application,” it said. “The Council also issued a Planning Infringement Notice against the Respondent.

“The Respondent did not apply for retrospective planning permission nor provide a satisfactory reason to the Council as to why the signage did not require such permission. When the display of the signage did not cease, enforcement proceedings were commenced. The Council has a statutory duty to enforce the Scheme.

“The Respondent provided no good reason for not providing a statement of grounds, for not attending the first practice day hearing or for not initially attending the second practice day hearing.”

However the Tribunal also said that in some respects, the matter had been quite straightforward, and a claim of more than $11,000 was not warranted.

The pharmacist was told to pay the Council $4,000 plus the $1,244 lodgement fee.

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