Is Council’s legal strategy reflective of community wishes or are costs being minimised by folding on court cases?
While that is not entirely an easy question to answer given closed-door negotiations between lawyers, there are some clues within court judgments where Council have been taken to court.
In recent years, Council have lost many court battles against speculating developers.
Council candidate for 2021 and lawyer, Bruce Clarke, is asking Council’s legal team to explain why it appears they gave up the fight on the recent West Byron decision ‘by instructing its solicitors to make significant concessions’.
According to Mr Clarke, Site R & D Pty Ltd, or the ‘locals’ consortium of developers, gained almost all the concessions they sought for their West Byron DA by Commissioner Michael Chilcot in March.
As of going to press, no reply was provided by Council’s legal counsel, Ralph James. A reply is expected next week, however.
Mr Clarke says that as one of the seven objectors who provided evidence in the recent Land and Environment Court hearings, he shares the concerns aired by Councillor Cate Coorey about the Court’s approval of the West Byron development.
The consent authority, the Northern Regional Planning Panel (NRPP), he said, ‘unanimously rejected the development application’.
‘It had meticulously dealt with the important issues including flooding, impacts on the Belongil catchment, traffic, visual amenity and effects on fauna and native vegetation.
‘Bearing in mind the strength of the decision by the NRPP, I would have thought there would be good grounds to appeal against the Land and Environment Court’s decision, until I read Commissioner Chilcott’s reasons’.
He says, ‘Put simply, it appears that Council had conceded on virtually all the grounds that the NRPP had based its refusal of the development’.
‘The Commissioner, therefore, did not have to make a formal finding on these significant issues, and therefore no legally acceptable grounds for an appeal were created.
‘Our community was overwhelmingly opposed to the development and many of us, including some 2,000 who put in written objections, worked hard to protect the Shire from the many adverse effects that would result from this development.
‘I spent many hours researching the proposal, writing detailed objections and preparing my evidence for court.
‘Council did instruct competent solicitors to fight the development, but failed to inform either me, my fellow objectors, or the community at large of its decision during the hearing, to apparently back down on the key objections to the development.
‘We deserve to be told why Council appears to have given up the fight by instructing its solicitors to make those significant concessions’.