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City council prepares for "fight" over old RAH site

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The Adelaide City Council is seeking advice on any claim it has to the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site as it prepares for a fight with the State Government.

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At its meeting last night, the council asked for advice from its administration, and external consultants, on the ownership status of the seven-hectare, prime development land.

It also requested an immediate briefing from the State Government on its intentions for the site, expressing disappointment that the council had not been given a “seat at the table” on plans for the redevelopment.

Lord Mayor Martin Haese told InDaily he had repeatedly asked for briefings from the State Government regarding the site late last year, to no avail.

Central Ward councillor Houssam Abiad told last night’s meeting the Government’s failure, so-far, to inform the council about its plans was “not acceptable”.

“It’s been clear the whole way that the South Australian Government has had no intention to involve the Adelaide City Council,” Abiad said.

“We’ve bent over backwards over the past six years to work in partnership in collaboration with them.

“I’m pretty disappointed with the efforts of the State Government on this project.”

However, a spokesperson for Housing and Urban Development Minister Stephen Mullighan said the council would get its briefing, following last night’s request.

Abiad, a former Liberal Party preselection candidate for Adelaide, told the meeting that the council needed to understand its claim over the ostensibly parklands site.

“It’s really crucial that we have a very good understanding of what our current position is and what we can and can’t do,” he said.

“I’m prepared to go out and fight really hard for this.”

Abiad also decried the Government’s failure to share its analysis of the economic and social impacts on the economy of the East End of moving the Royal Adelaide Hospital, and its thousands of workers, to the West End.

The council’s intervention comes after former opposition leader Isobel Redmond broke her three-year media silence on Monday to warn there would likely be residential development on the parklands site.

North Ward councillor Phil Martin told the meeting that “the parklands are there for the enjoyment of all South Australians, not just those who can afford to purchase an apartment with a million dollar view”.

“It’s likely if there are residential apartments there, the Government will simply be creating a silver tail suburb in our parklands.

“For them to even allow the debate to get this far suggests there is a disaster looming.”

Martin has previously suggested residential and commercial development on the site could be unlawful under the Parklands Act.

Abiad said that “residential towers [proposed for the site] have brought a lot of concerns to people in the community, and people in this chamber as well”.

“There are plenty of other sites in the city for residential developments, there are plenty of other sites in the city for commercial developments.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. This is it.

“This is the ‘unicorn’ that can set a completely different direction for the city of Adelaide … and the best we can do is a mixed commercial and residential development?

“If that’s the best we can do then I’m really concerned for the future of our state.”

Planning Minister John Rau told InDaily last year that the development would involve “a mix of cultural things, educational things and commercial things, and possibly some residential, depending on exactly what the proposals are”.

The head of Renewal SA, John Hanlon, who has a key role in assessing development proposals for the site, was more definite last year, saying: “There’ll be people living on the RAH site … it’s going to happen.”

Area councillor Anne Moran told last night’s meeting that opening the land to property developers would reduce the impetus for development elsewhere in the city.

“If you just bleed into the parklands … you remove the need to build the Le Cornu site, you remove the need to build on greenfield sites … in the city,” she said.

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