Peninsula Aero Club (PAC) in Victoria yesterday won a victory in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) against the local council, which had sought to enforce an operating restriction on Tyabb Airport.
Mornington Peninsula Shire Council had been looking to apply a 40-year-old operating condition that prevented operations from Tyabb between 0930 and 1030 on Sundays to reduce noise at a local church. PAC had been in breach of the condition for at least 25 years.
The church, All Saints, ceased operation in 1978 and is now a cafe and reception centre.
PAC argued that as the condition had not been enforced for over 15 years, existing usage rights had been established and called for VCAT to order the condition be removed from the airfield's permits.
VCAT senior member Jeanette Rickards agreed and ordered the restriction deleted from the permits.
PAC President Jack Vevers said “This is another significant win for PAC and everyone on the airport. It will contribute to safety for pilots, maintain the current amenity for the community and help preserve the viability of this important asset for the community."
In trying to state their case, Mornington Peninsula Shire Council went as far as stating that PAC's operations from Tyabb Airport were actually prohibited under the Special Use Zone Schedule because the designation of the airfield as an "authorised landing area" did not comply with the requirement that the land be used as an "airfield or pilot training school used in accordance with an Approved Airfield Master Plan."
The council stated that the airport therefore relied on three council permits for operation, permits that enforced the "church hour" restriction.
Ms Rickards noted specifically that “It appears from the extract above of the Council Officer’s report to amend plans under Permit P17/1738.01 that the council has a clear view of what has occurred over a long period of time in relation to the Tyabb airfield …” and “In the present case the permits in place indicate the use was being lawfully carried out, but for the 15 years prior to the lodging of the application for declaration, the ‘church hour’ condition on the three relevant permits were being breached …”
She therefore concluded that PAC's had established existing usage rights.
"Yesterday’s decision vindicates PAC’s consistent position about its lawful operations under its planning permits," a PAC statement issued today says.
"The Shire’s continuance of the upcoming enforcement proceeding raises questions about the Shire’s sensibility to the wasted costs associated with this course of action, which is likely to be in the range of hundreds of thousands of ratepayers’ dollars."
Earlier this year, PAC was also successful in preventing the Shire from adding conditions to an application to relocate a shed for the airport tractor.
In June last year, the council ordered all businesses on the airport to cease operations, stating that the permits for the businesses couldn't be found.