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Lord Mayor returns fire from predecessor over Crows park lands bid

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UPDATED: Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor has criticised a predecessor for making “very offensive” claims about the Adelaide City Council’s handling of the Crows’ bid to build a new headquarters in the park lands.

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Speaking on FIVEaa this morning, Verschoor said she took offence to assertions by “a former Lord Mayor” that the city council should have rejected from the outset the Adelaide Football Club’s proposal to replace the Aquatic Centre in North Adelaide with a $65 million sports and community centre.

It comes after former Lord Mayor and Labor MP Jane Lomax-Smith described the council’s public consultation on the proposal, which closes next Wednesday, as “incredulous”, “really dodgy” and “tenuous” at a community forum last month.

Lomax-Smith, who was Lord Mayor from 1997 to 2000, has since stated on social media that she was “bemused by Council even considering a corporate HQ in National Heritage-listed park lands”.

Verschoor did not refer to Lomax-Smith specifically on radio this morning, but she said “a lot of people have gone out including some fairly prominent Adelaide figures – a former Lord Mayor – saying we should have not accepted it from the word go, we shouldn’t have gone out there”.

“I get very offended by that because that is actually saying that we are going to be dictators… we are going to make a decision without actually talking to the community,” she said.

“All we did was we took a proposal out to consultation to say what do people think?

“I think that is our role as a local government to say we’ve been given this proposal, we’re going to give it to you to, tell us what you think about it.”

But Lomax-Smith told InDaily this morning “any reasonable reading of the (council’s) regulations would suggest that (this bid) does not comply”.

“I think that’s what a reasonable member of the public would think,” she said.

“The council doesn’t have to assess every idea that comes forward, they have the power to say it doesn’t comply with the guidelines, it doesn’t comply with the rules.”

The city council will consider feedback from its public consultation before deciding to progress to stage three of its “unsolicited bids” process, which would involve the club producing final designs and costings.

At the Adelaide Football Club’s annual general meeting on Monday, CEO Andrew Fagan said “getting a go ahead will be transformational … not just for the coaches and the players in both (the) men’s and women’s programs and for the community programs we run as well, but importantly for our members and fans”.

“We will get a city-based facility that will essentially be accessible every day of the year,” he said.

“It will be a national leader in terms of said community and sporting facilities, but would really provide an opportunity for our fans to interact with us at the club in a way that’s just not possible at our West Lakes headquarters.”

Fagan said it was “completely fair enough” that there was a public debate about the proposal, but the “overwhelming majority” of feedback was positive.

“It’s fair to say there are a few mis(truths) being pushed around,” he said.

“The new facility and particularly aquatic and recreation facility is dedicated for public use, and the feedback I’ve had from the existing user groups I’ve met with has been really positive – they want a new facility and they know it’s for them.

“We do genuinely believe this could be a win, win, win for the club, the council and the community, but equally understand that these planning and approval processes are incredibly complex.”

The Crows claim their proposal would return over 6000-square metres to the park lands and would be split into three sections: the club’s training and administration area, an education zone from which the club would run its community programs and a public aquatic space that the club would use “on an occasional hire basis”.

The size and scale of the public aquatic space is yet to be determined.

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