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Deputy Lord Mayor calls for legal review of Hutt St Centre upgrade approval

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Adelaide City Council’s Deputy Lord Mayor has called for independent legal review of the council’s decision to approve a controversial $2.2 million upgrade of the Hutt Street Centre, following claims the development could contravene land use regulations.

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Deputy Lord Mayor and Hutt Street resident Alexander Hyde has lodged a motion for Tuesday night’s council meeting asking for an “independent and comprehensive legal review” of the impact of the Hutt Street Centre’s land use on surrounding businesses and residents.  

It follows claims by lawyers representing some Hutt Street traders that the centre’s increasing scale and service offering contravenes land use regulations set in 1995, and causes anti-social and criminal behaviour in the city’s southeast.  

The Hutt Street Centre won unanimous approval from the Council’s Assessment Panel last month to build a new front foyer, laundry, recreation spaces, canopy and outdoor kitchen at its 65-year-old premises.

The centre, which provides an array of services to people experiencing homelessness, says the renovations are not intended to increase the number of clients or change its service offering; rather, to improve safety and security at the site by reducing loitering outside, and improving access into and out of the facility.  

But during last month’s Council Assessment Panel meeting, lawyers argued the centre attracts more clients now then it did in 1995 when the land use regulations were set and, as such, the renovations would facilitate an unlawful expansion.

Panel members said the development would not grow or increase services, rather “provide them in a better manner”.

They also said they were not in a position to comment on whether or not the development was lawful under land use regulations.  

Hyde told InDaily this morning that the Hutt Street trader lawyers raised “serious questions” that needed to be scrutinised by “experienced planning law experts”.

He said a legal review needed to be conducted “at arms’ length” from council staff, who recommended that the development be approved.  

“This motion is about answering the fundamental question of whether the intensity of land use at the Hutt Street Centre is compliant with previous approvals,” he said.

“The Council Assessment Panel recently highlighted that they were not the body that should be ruling on this, and so it falls to the City of Adelaide to undertake work to answer this question.

“We need to know where the line in the sand is drawn when it comes to allowable impacts that social service providers can have on the surrounding businesses and residents.

“It is integral for forward planning of social service delivery in the city.”  

Hyde added that “no other part of inner or greater metropolitan Adelaide has the same level of concentration of social services as south ward” and ratepayers “have a right to know” what is acceptable under planning law.

He said he did not have a “firm view” on whether he supported the Hutt Street Centre’s proposed renovations.

Hutt Street Centre CEO Chris Burns said he was “very confident that the Hutt Street Centre was operating within the terms of our existing rights”. 

“We’re not changing the services that we’re delivering, we’re actually trying to have a lesser impact on our surrounding for our neighbours, our residents and our businesses on Hutt Street.

“Honestly, the ratepayers’ money that will be spent on this issue could be so much better spent delivering services for the homeless and helping to get 300 homeless people who are currently in hotels and motels out into social housing.”

Burns previously told InDaily that he was “disappointed at some of the accusations that have been falsely laid” by some residents and businesses who opposed the upgrade.

He also said that any legal challenge to the Council Assessment Panel decision would burden the Hutt Street Centre financially, despite it receiving subsidised legal advice.  

It comes after SA Police released data last year showing Hutt Street accounted for less than two per cent of reported crime in the CBD.

The Hutt Street Centres aims to start the upgrades in the coming months, with all services to continue operating during the renovations.

Hyde’s motion asks for the proposed legal review to be brought back to the council for noting in its public agenda “in acknowledgement of the public’s right to know of the lawfulness of the land use at this site”.

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