Chris Dobney & Darren Coyne
Plans for a function centre on a picturesque coastal headland in Newcastle have been overturned, laying down a precedent for similar cases.
The NSW Land and Environment Court’s decision to overrule an approval to build in Newcastle’s King Edward Park is tipped to have widespread implications for other plans to develop crown land reserved for public purpose across the state.
And it has been lauded by Brunswick Heads residents opposed to plans by North Coast Holiday Parks to privatise and commercialise vast tracts of the town’s foreshore, including at iconic Torakina Park.
Stronach Group gained approval from Newcastle City Council in 2011 to build a function centre in the park, which has unobstructed views of the Pacific Ocean.
Like the Torakina site, the development was planned for crown land reserved for public recreation.
Community group Friends of King Edward Park challenged the development approval in court and claimed a win on Monday.
The court found the function centre would have been used primarily for weddings and would not provide for public recreation.
The park’s Plan of Management was also found invalid.
The ‘landmark’ decision is being seen as a precedent that will test future development plans on crown land across NSW.
‘This is a win not just for King Edward Park, it will give strength to communities across the state who are opposing the privatisation of crown land in their patch,’ Greens MP David Shoebridge said.
And Brunswick Heads’ Foreshore Protection Group spokesperson Sean O’Meara agrees.
‘This is a tremendous result for communities across NSW who have been fighting successive state governments who see our best public Crown Land Reserves as nothing more than development opportunities that can be sold off to their developer mates for a quick buck,’ he told Echonetdaily.
‘As in the Newcastle case, the residents of Brunswick Heads have been fighting a long battle against plans put in motion six years ago by disgraced Labour Minister Tony Kelly to privatise their towns best foreshore Crown Land and exclude them from the parklands and river they have freely used for the last 100 years,’ Mr O’Meara said.
‘As Crown Land this land is owned by all and was zoned as Public Purpose Recreation so it would remain free and open for all in perpetuity.
‘Despite this obvious fact, various “trusts”, stacked with politically appointed developers have been given control of this land and drawn up plans that totally contradict the very clear Crown Land, Environmental and Local Government regulations.
‘Most residents fighting “the cause” have always believed that when challenged in the Courts the “trusts” would be shown to be acting illegally and this is exactly what this Court decision has proven. Fundamentally, Crown Land zoned for Recreational Purposes for all cannot be used for a commercial purpose that restricts their use of this land.’
Mr O’Meara said the case clearly showed the Plans of Management for Brunswick Heads foreshores were ‘flawed and illegal and must be stopped immediately.’
‘Thousands of square metres of parkland (including Torakina Park) is due to be dug up, built over and fenced off in the coming weeks. This Court case could not have come at a better time.
‘Byron Shire Council as the approving body now has the evidence and ability to instruct the Crown Lands Trust to cease all works on the Brunswick Foreshore now.’