The UNLC and the King Edward Park Decision
Property development has been a hot button topic in Newcastle for a number of years with battlelines being drawn between developers and concerned local citizens. One long-running conflict was recently resolved in favour of a local activist group, with the extensive legal assistance of the University of Newcastle Legal Centre (UNLC).
Annie Street Pty Ltd (a Stronarch company) was given approval by the local council to redevelop the old bowling club site at King Edward Park just over three years ago. Their plan was to transform it into a function centre, with a public access kiosk and car park also on the site. Friends of King Edward Park opposed this redevelopment on the basis it was inappropriate use of a Crown Reserve dedicated for public recreation, and on 11 May this year won a challenge in the NSW Land and Environmental Court which overturned this plan.
The UNLC involvement in the case began in December of 2011 when the Friends of King Edward Park approached them with the case. Jacqueline Svenson, a solicitor with the UNLC, was given carriage of the case and worked on all aspects of the case from its inception to the recent ruling. During that period over 50 students worked on the case as part of their practical skills training with the Legal Centre.
Jacqueline Svenson said that she was thrilled with the outcome. Speaking on behalf of the UNLC Jacqueline made note of the precedent value for the protection of public land as well as what the ruling meant in terms of independent review of government decisions. She also made special mention of Friends of King Edward Park stating that they'd "worked tirelessly on this for a number of years, many more than the court case took".
The Newcastle Herald article concerning this case can be found by visiting http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/park-site-saved-as-land-and-environment-court-overturns-newcastle-development-in-decision-with-statewide-implications-20150511-ggz2z3.html.