George Calombaris caught up in neighbourhood row
MASTERCHEF judge George Calombaris has found himself at the centre of a bitter neighbourhood dispute a week out from the launch of the latest season of the reality TV show.
Neighbour Helen Elsworth has lodged a complaint with the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) over the "hideous black box" which recently appeared in the backyard of Calombaris' Melbourne home - which is owned by his wife Natalie Tricarico.
Ms Elsworth believes the structure breaches regulations and wants it torn down.
"He's the worst neighbour I've had in my life," 71 year-old Ms Elsworth said.
"He should be living in Central Australia somewhere, where he can't bother people, not in the suburbs."
Ms Tricarico told News Corp the building was above board and had the blessing of the two neighbours with adjoining land.
"As the owner of the property I have undertaken minor works to my home and these have been done strictly in accordance with all permits and consents," she said.
"We have also continued to ensure our neighbours who share a land boundary with us were kept informed of the progress of the construction works - as we were required to do - and those neighbours have expressed no issue with the construction or the process that took place."
Ms Tricarico, who oversaw all works, said the development was approved by the local council on December 19.
But Stonnington council CEO Warren Roberts said: "A private building surveyor has been appointed and Council is not the relevant authority in this matter".
News Corp understands the permit was issued by the private building surveyor.
According to a work notice the outbuilding - which is just centimetres from the fence line - is designed to be "a self-contained small gym".
Calombaris lost a reported 20kgs in 2013, which he attributed to healthy eating, exercising and working out at a gym.
Established garden and trees were removed from Calombaris' backyard to allow for construction of the single-level building, meaning Ms Elsworth now looks directly into the home of the MasterChef judge from her bedroom window.
An angry Ms Elsworth, whose unit overlooks Calombaris' backyard, said she had lived in her Toorak apartment for 33 years and had always got on famously with her neighbours.
But "rude" George Calombaris had made no attempt to inform her personally of his building plans, she said.
Ms Elsworth said Ms Tricarico had spoken with her once about the building, telling her she could paint the new fence if she wanted to improve the outlook from her bedroom window.
The neighbourhood spat comes ahead of the Season 10 launch of MasterChef on May 7, which is being billed as "a season full of surprises", and is the latest bit of trouble stirred up by the Melbourne chef after his company Made Establishment was last year found to have underpaid 160 staff to the tune of $2.6 million and he faced court for assaulting a teenager at the soccer.
He has since repaid his staff and the assault conviction has been overturned.
Ms Elsworth said Calombaris' new backyard building looked like "an outside toilet, built on the cheap," and did not appear to have been designed by an architect or with regard for neighbours.
"I wasn't even notified about this. It's shocking. I don't think they (the Calombaris family) realised they would lose their privacy by doing this as well. And of course I have certainly lost my privacy," she said. "I want it demolished. It's an eyesore."
But Archicentre Australia director, Peter Georgiev, said there was no accounting for taste and what was considered ugly to one person was inoffensive, or even attractive, to another.
Provided buildings met with height and other regulations - and there were not specific overlays in place - people could pretty much build what they wanted in their backyards if a permit was granted, he said.
"It's their backyard and they can do as they wish," Mr Georgiev said.
He described Calombaris' new building as "relatively benign".
A legal letter to the surveyor who issued the building permit for Calombaris' gym claims the permit is in breach of the Building Act because Ms Elsworth was not provided with a work notice 14 days before the permit was issued, among other technical oversights.
Despite an assurance in the work notice that fences would not be removed, the boundary fence between Calombaris' property and Ms Elsworth's apartment complex had indeed been removed and replaced, the legal letter states.
Ms Tricarico maintains she was not required to serve the work notice on anyone other than those with adjoining land boundaries.
The VBA has responded to Ms Elsworth's complaint, saying an assessment officer will investigate and "obtain all the information required to make a decision on the appropriate course of action".