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Deputy Lord Mayor, council staff at odds over call to review Hutt St Centre upgrade approval

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Adelaide’s Deputy Lord Mayor has disagreed with council staff who oppose his push for an independent legal review of the council’s decision to approve a controversial upgrade of the Hutt Street Centre.

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InDaily reported on Friday that Hyde had lodged a motion for tomorrow 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 followed last month’s unanimous Council’s Assessment Panel (CAP) decision to approve a $2.2 million upgrade of the homeless support service’s premises, amid claims from some neighbouring traders that the development would contravene land use regulations and cause a spike in criminal behaviour in the city’s southeast.

The upgrade includes demolishing the inside of the 65-year-old building to make way for a new front foyer, laundry, recreation spaces, canopy and outdoor kitchen.

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.

In response to Hyde’s motion, staff wrote that it was not the role of the council to investigate the decision-making processes of the CAP, which is an independent body.  

They wrote that the council had sought preliminary legal advice, which stated that there was “no need” for the council to undertake any legal review.

“To be involved in the process may be deemed inappropriate given CAP’s independent role,” they wrote.

In his motion, Hyde asked for the proposed legal review of the Hutt Street Centre upgrade to be made public “in acknowledgement of the public’s right to know of the lawfulness of the land use at this site”.

But council staff rejected that call in their report, stating it would be “inappropriate” to release legal advice in a public council agenda.

“Irrespective of the contents or basis upon or purposes for which any legal advice is being released (i.e. public interest), the release will waive council’s legal privilege,” they wrote.

“Publishing any legal advice may also compromise other third parties that may decide to pursue the matter through the courts system.”

A render of the proposed $2.2 million Hutt Street Centre redevelopment. Image: Flightpath Architects

Council staff last month recommended to the CAP that it approve the Hutt Street Centre development on the basis that the alterations “seem minor” and would constitute a “positive outcome for the street”.

But during the CAP meeting, lawyers representing the St Andrews Medical Centre, Colorectal SA, Arab Steed Hotel and restaurants at 242 Hutt Street argued that the Hutt Street 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.

They said the development would further increase the number of Hutt Street Centre clients, who they alleged regularly engaged in anti-social behaviour in the city’s southeast.

Hyde argued that the lawyers raised “serious questions” that needed to be answered by “experienced planning law experts”.

He told InDaily on Monday that council staff had “almost entirely missed the point” of his motion.

“It’s not actually about reviewing a decision by CAP at all and if they’ve read it that way then they’ve completely misinterpreted it,” he said.

“It’s about answering a fundamental question of law, which is, is the level of intensity of land use making them (the Hutt Street Centre) non-compliant with the development approval?

“It’s not about reviewing CAP’s decision-making processes necessarily because they decided not to make a decision on that.”

Hyde, who previously told InDaily he does not have a “firm view” on whether he supports the Hutt Street Centre’s renovations, today said he was “not surprised” that council staff had provided “such a negative comment”.

“That’s why the investigation needs to take place completely at arm’s length from them,” he said.

“The legal advice needed to be sought before the fact not after it, and if they’ve sought legal advice in response to my motion it just speaks to the confidence of how they’ve handled this matter from the beginning.”

InDaily contacted the council’s administration for comment.

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