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Ombudsman considers new investigation into Coordinator-General

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The State Ombudsman is considering whether to investigate another complaint about a petrol station development, approved after a local council was stripped of powers to decide the project’s future.

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Last month, Ombudsman Wayne Lines slapped down State Coordinator-General James Hallion for taking an application for a Peregrine Corporation petrol station out of the hands of Burnside Council on the basis of “irrelevant” information.

Lines confirmed to InDaily this morning he had received a new complaint, regarding a separate development proposal, since publishing that report, and was considering whether or not it merited investigation.

“We’ve got another referral, but we’re assessing it,” Lines said.

“No decision yet about investigating (has been made).”

InDaily understands the Stirling District Residents Association lodged the latest complaint, and that it relates to the proposed AM/PM petrol station development at 65 Mount Barker Road, Stirling.

According to the association’s complaint to Lines, seen by InDaily, the original application for the Mount Barker Road development listed a build cost of $2.8 million.

The Coordinator-General may only “call in” development proposals, taking them out of the hands of local councils, if they are valued at more than $3 million.

The complaint says the application was deferred on two occasions and then rejected by the Adelaide Hills Council Development Assessment Panel. Subsequently, the complaint alleges, an application for the same project, this time valued at $4.2 million, was submitted to the Coordinator-General.

Hallion’s office called in decision-making power over that development, from the Adelaide Hills Council, to the State Government’s Development Assessment Commission, which approved the development.

The residents’ association complaint describes the increased build cost as “unexplained and dramatic”, and claims its concerns about the calling-in process “were initially ignored, then dismissed” when presented to Hallion early last year.

“[Hallion] dismissed our concerns and said that if we wanted to take the matter further we should raise it with the police,” the complaint reads.

Managing director of Agostino Group (which owns the AM/PM chain) Frank Agostino told the Adelaide Hills Courier newspaper last month that his company had not increased the cost of the development to make it eligible to be assessed by the Development Assessment Commission.

Instead, he is quoted as saying, the original cost was based on “preliminary” concept plan and the later estimate was based on more detailed costings, adding that he would welcome an ombudsman’s investigation into the development because he had “nothing to hide”.

InDaily contacted Agostino for comment.

A State Government spokesperson told InDaily last month it would amend its regulations in response to the report over the Peregrine Corporation’s proposed Kensington Road development.

“The Government has reviewed the report, and will amend the regulations to provide better clarity of the economic intent of any proposal to be considered by the Coordinator-General,” the spokesperson said at the time.

This morning the spokesperson said: “The State Government is progressing in its amendment of these regulations and hopes to have these changes confirmed soon.”

The Kensington Road proposal was considered and rejected by the Development Assessment Commission in June, but Peregrine Corporation is appealing the decision.

Hallion declined to comment.

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