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Push to ban commercial development on RAH site ‘catastrophic’

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Adelaide City Council will tonight debate a proposal to reject any commercial construction on the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site, but Lord Mayor Martin Haese says no commercial development on the site would be “catastrophic for Adelaide”.

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North Ward Councillor Phil Martin will present a motion to tonight’s council meeting not to support the construction and sale of any new residential or commercial premises on the site of the current Royal Adelaide Hospital.

Martin argues the parklands are “for all South Australians” and opposes the creation of a “silvertail suburb” being built on the seven-hectare, prime development site.

But Lord Mayor Martin Haese says the proposal is “extreme” and “premature”, and that rejecting all possible commercial and residential development on the site would risk it becoming “dormant”.

“In the absence of any … commercial development, that would preclude anything happening on that site,” Haese told InDaily this morning.

“That site must be activated.

“If nothing happens on that site, the impact on Adelaide … would be catastrophic.”

He said it was premature to make any decision about development on the site until the State Government had finalised its position.

However he said he did not favour freehold sale of any part of the site, instead favouring long-term leases.

The council and the public remain in the dark about what the State Government has planned for the site, with shortlisted proposals from developers still under consideration.

“Councillor Martin’s motion is extreme and premature in the absence of [knowing the State Government’s intentions for the site],” Haese said.

However, Cr Martin told InDaily allowing residential development on the site would set a concerning precedent for the privatisation of the parklands.

“The issue for South Australians to resolve is whether or not they wish to see their parklands developed by private interests, for private interests,” said Martin.

“You will set up the precedent … that parklands can be developed for residential purposes.

“There will be a silvertail suburb in the parklands once residential development is allowed [and only] those with the financial means will be resident on the parklands.”

Martin said the parklands had “shrunk 25 per cent” since they were established during Colonel Light’s era, and that they were meant to be for public recreational purposes.

However, Haese said those advocating for much of the site to be returned to open parklands were “nostalgic”, since the site “hasn’t been parklands per se since the 1850s”.

And he said even if the proposal succeeded tonight, the city council had little or no control over the use of the site anyway.

“Effectively, the RAH site can be considered crown land,” Haese said.

Property Council SA executive director Daniel Gannon said the proposal to reject commercial development would “keep us in the past”.

He said the site was one of the most exciting development opportunities in the country at the moment, and presented the possibility of constructing not only commercial and residential, but “iconic” buildings to “put the city of Adelaide on the tourism map”.

Urban Development Institute of Australia SA executive director Pat Gerace told InDaily: “the percentage of the total South Australian population that voted for [Martin is] how much we should take notice of this motion”.

He said South Australians’ quality of life would not be diminished by commercial and residential development on the site because was long since it had been parklands space.

Gerace urged the council to make better use of the parklands which it does control, and collaborate better with inner-city councils to do it.

Central Ward councillor Houssam Abiad said “what the motion proposes is ridiculous and counterproductive”.

“The Adelaide City Council doesn’t own or control the site,” he said.

However, earlier this year, he also expressed concern over the prospect of residential development on the site.

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