Neighbour left with concrete block in yard after dig threatens pole

An inner south Canberra resident has been left with a large concrete block in her yard after an excavation next door threatened to bring down a power pole.

The power pole that became unstable after excavation commenced. A geotechnical assessment has since found no safety issues although the concrete block remains.

Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

The resident, who did not want to be named, found a note in her letterbox from Evoenergy over the weekend saying excavation work next door left the pole in a "dangerous manner" and asking her to call the power company urgently.

The resident had raised concerns about the excavation - which she said had been occurring for about a fortnight - on Thursday, fearing that builders had dug too deep near the boundary of the block, which could cause structural problems for neighbouring properties. The hole was about a metre away from the electricity pole.

In an email on Monday, a member of Access Canberra's construction audit team said inspectors went to the site on Friday and found the excavation was going ahead without approval.

"Inspectors advised the builder to stop work immediately until the development has all necessary approvals and other compliance measures in place including engineer’s advice in relation to the depth and proximity of the current excavation to the adjacent boundaries," the email said.

"Inspectors also advised the builder to undertake necessary rectification work so that the current excavation will not impact upon the integrity and safety of adjoining properties."

Evoenergy's works delivery branch manager Clinton McAlister said WorkSafe ACT called the electricity company to the site on Friday evening to install "temporary precautions" to support the pole.

"Evoenergy have implemented this temporary measure to protect the integrity of the overhead network and supply for customers in the area until the excavation works have been resolved," he said.

"Evoenergy are continuing to work with the parties affected by this matter and to ensure there is no safety risk towards occupants or others."

Mr McAlister said "stabilisation pillars" were used across the overhead wire network in different situations, but that it was an "irregular occurrence".

Leo Dobes of the Griffith Narrabundah Community Council with the concrete pillar.

Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

Access Canberra inspectors slapped a stop work and prohibition notice on the site and asked the neighbour to contact them again if more "illegal" work took place.

However it has since emerged the building approval was signed off on last Wednesday.

An ACT government spokeswoman said there was no record of the building approval when they issued the stop work notice on Friday although have since been provided with evidence one was issued on September 5.

She said the prohibition notice about the pole was lifted on Monday afternoon after a geotechnical assessment  identified no major concerns with the proximity of the excavation to the fence and pole. However the concrete block remains in the neighbour's yard.

Furthermore, the spokeswoman said the development was DA exempt as it was considered by the certifier as being code complaint.

"Access Canberra will review the building approval documentation to determine whether the development is exempt from development approval and undertake a further inspection to determine compliance," she said.

The debacle came as an ACT parliamentary inquiry heard evidence about problems with the ACT's planning system.

Griffith Narrabundah Community Association president Dr Leo Dobes said there had been a number of similar incidents in the area.

"Ironically, one of the committee members pointed out that the construction industry considers that the government leans too far in favour of residents’ groups in disputes about development applications. This case demonstrates clearly the situation as it actually is on the ground. It would be an excellent case study for the committee to investigate further," Dr Dobes said.

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