Fight for sign lost in Supreme Court 

By Mark Marsden, Victorian Planning Reports

Big outdoor advertising company, Octopus Media, has lost its fight in the Supreme Court to erect a new electronic sign on the rooftop at 500 Flinders St.

It was reported in the March edition of CBD News that Octopus Media failed to win VCAT support to erect the new sign. One of the company’s key arguments to the tribunal was that it had an “existing use” right to put up the electronic sign by virtue of the existing sign (which had not been removed from the top of the building despite the council’s advice that the permit for it had expired). However, the tribunal ruled in favour of the council that the existing right had expired.

An existing use right allows a use (which includes the “use” to display an advertising sign) to continue after a change to the planning rules that would otherwise prohibit that use.

But there are certain rules that must be followed to enjoy the benefits of an existing use right. One rule is that the use must not cease for more than two years over a 15 month period, which was pertinent in this case.

In taking its fight to the Supreme Court, Octopus Media argued that the tribunal erred in relation to the question of the existing use right.

The court dismissed all of Octopus Media’s nine grounds of appeal in Octopus Media Pty v Melbourne City Council [2017] VSC 429.

The council will see it as an important win because contemporary planning rules discourage signs on roof tops and all promotional signs within Yarra River view-lines.

The advertising structure still exists but it would seem its days are numbered.

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