The battle of Janet Street

UNHAPPY: Gary Ihnen with a building that is being built next to his house in Janet St Merewether. Picture: RYAN OSLAND DEFIANT: Property developer Salah Bousaleh says the neighbours are just jealous. Picture: MAX MASON-HUBERS.

IT was 2010 when Newcastle businessman Salah Bousaleh unveiled plans for a four-storey house in Janet Street, Merewether, with a second two-storey house planned for the rear of the block.

Four years later, Mr Bousaleh’s neighbours have lodged a string of complaints to Newcastle City Council and other authorities about what they say is a series of problems on the job.

Mr Bousaleh disputes all the allegations, and says envy over the size of the development is behind their concerns.

He acknowledges the front house is very big, but says he paid $1.4 million for the land and wasn’t going to put something small on it.

“This is a multimillion-dollar development and you will be able to see all the way to Nelson Bay from the top floor,” Mr Bousaleh said.

Neighbours’ spokesman Gary Ihnen said problems with the development showed the authorities had no means of dealing with a building job that was going wrong.

“All we want him to do is to comply with his development approval,” Mr Ihnen said.

“If he does that, then we don’t have a leg to stand on. But as the file on the property shows you, there have been all sorts of problems, especially drainage issues that result in water running off his property and causing problems for everyone around him.

“A brick wall fell onto a property beside him. There’s rubbish everywhere. He promises to fix things and then never does and everyone is sick of it.

“When complaints are made to the council, it says the job is being overseen by a private certifier and that it’s the certifier’s responsibility.

“But the certifier is paid by the developer, and so it’s not in his interest to come down too hard. It’s gone on so long now that a complaint has been made to the Building Professionals Board.”

Private certifier Glenn Levick, of Charlestown firm BCA Certifiers, defended his handling of the Janet Street job but acknowledged the neighbours’ concerns.

He denied private certifiers had a conflict of interest and said they had “more to lose” than council officers if they didn’t do their jobs properly.

“The people using the services of private certifiers are being held to account just as much as if it was done through a council,” Mr Levick said.

Newcastle councillor Therese Doyle said she had acted for ratepayers on complaints about the project.

The document file shows at least four memos to councillors from senior staff, and the council said it had issued Mr Bousaleh a penalty notice earlier this year after a lack of “environmental controls” allegedly allowed “sediment” to wash into the stormwater drains.

“The council doesn’t get paid to enforce this DA and there appears to be a conflict of interest in that the certifier is paid by the developer,” Cr Doyle said.

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