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Uni pursues 'legal rights' to stop Urrbrae gatehouse demolition

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The University of Adelaide says it has yet to receive a formal notice from the State Government of its intention to acquire land and bulldoze the historic Urrbrae gatehouse for an intersection upgrade, as it vows to “pursue its legal rights” to stop the takeover and demolition.

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Urrbrae gatehouse

It comes as the Opposition accuses the State Government of a secret plan to make Cross Road the main connector for freight from the South Eastern Freeway to the North South Corridor – but the Transport Minister accuses the Opposition of “lying to the community and fear-mongering”.

Transport Minister Corey Wingard has backed a Transport Department decision to demolish the 130-year-old gatehouse on the corner of Cross Road and Fullarton Road as part of a $61 million upgrade of the intersection – despite advice that it’s possible to move the state heritage-listed building.

The gatehouse sits on the University of Adelaide’s Waite campus and is linked to its Urrbrae House historic precinct.

A university spokesperson told InDaily as the landowner it will “pursue its legal rights under the compulsory acquisition process”.

“The University of Adelaide is opposed to the acquisition of Waite campus land and its impact on the heritage of that land and the legacy of Peter Waite,” the spokesperson said.

“The Waite campus, which includes the Waite Arboretum, is held in perpetuity by the University and is a South Australian treasure.”

The spokesperson said the university would “continue to make representations to government and the community about the need to protect the Waite heritage and the legacy of Peter Waite”.

“The University has yet to receive formal written notification from the State of its intention to acquire a portion of the land on our campus,” the spokesperson said.

Opposition transport spokesman Tom Koutsantonis called on Wingard to “come out and tell us will he use his acquisition powers under the Act or will this be a negotiated settlement?”

He said the university “can absolutely fight it in the Supreme Court but the power is pretty clear in the Act that the minister has the power to compulsorily acquire it for a road so I’m not sure it would be successful”.

“Why don’t they just try and find a way of negotiating the settlement that pleases everyone,” he said.

“There’s plenty of scope within the budget to move it if they need to. All the risk is being borne by the contractors – I’m not quite sure why they’ve cut it off.”

Local firm Mammoth Movers has quoted under a million dollars to relocate the building, saying it’s “100 per cent feasible” and that it could be done without any damage.

However, transport officials have said the costs to the taxpayer would be around $3 million, and that relocating the building would “degrade its heritage value”.

Koutsantonis accused the Government of working on a secret plan to turn Cross Road into the main connector for freight from the South Eastern Freeway to South Road and the North South Corridor.

“It must be because they’ve chosen Cross Road to be the connector to the North South Corridor because it’s the cheapest option but they don’t want to tell their voters in safe Liberal seats and marginal Liberal seats like Elder that this is their plan,” he said.

Cross Rd traffic. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

But Wingard said “Labor is again lying to the community and fear-mongering”.

“Trucks, including B-doubles, already use Cross Road and have done so for years when freight needs to get to the airport or moved around our suburbs to supermarkets, which is why we’re investing to improve safety unlike Labor who ignored vital road upgrades,” he said.

“The former Labor Government left the cupboard bare in terms of planning for future projects, including upgrades to Cross Road, and once again we’re fixing their mess.”

Wingard said the Government was investing in a freight bypass “to encourage more trucks to divert around the back of the hills and avoid the down track of the South Eastern Freeway and Cross Road”.

“We’ve already begun works on the $12 million freight bypass that was announced as a COVID stimulus project last year so Labor should stop lying to the community,” he said.

InDaily asked Wingard if he was reconsidering the decision to demolish the gatehouse.

A spokesperson said the government “is in continued discussions with the University of Adelaide about the future of the Gatehouse and community consultation regarding improving heritage outcomes will begin soon”.

“The University has the same legal avenues under the property acquisition legislation as other property owners,” the spokesperson said.

“The State Government will continue to work with all stakeholders and the community regarding improving heritage assets.”

The spokesperson also said “a planning study is underway in regards to Cross Road as well as a host of other road corridors”.

“Last year we announced $10 million to undertake a number of planning studies which had been ignored by Labor,” the spokesperson said.

A Transport Department spokesman said “in regard to Cross Road, these studies are still in the planning phase” and “there are no further details at this stage”.

“The South Australian Government has recently announced a suite of planning works to be undertaken to determine potential infrastructure upgrades on key arterial roads, intersections and transport corridors, as well as public transport infrastructure improvements across South Australia,” the spokesperson said.

“Among the planning studies to be investigated are potential improvements for public transport on main roads across Adelaide and road corridor plans for a number of corridors on the network, including Portrush Road and Cross Road.

“The GlobeLink Planning Study identified other possible options to link road freight with the North-South Corridor, which the Government committed to explore in the long term.”

The spokesperson said as a first step to this process the department had recently commissioned a planning study “to inform future strategic development of High Productivity Vehicle networks”.

“This will include matters such as the connectivity between the South Eastern Freeway and the North-South Corridor and further potential to increase capacity on the North-South freight route between Murray Bridge and the Sturt Highway,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said the intersection upgrade at Cross Road and Fullarton Road “forms part of a suite of projects aimed at addressing congested locations on the network”.

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