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Controversial Hutt St Centre legal review to cost up to $40k

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City ratepayers will fork out up to $40,000 for a review of the Hutt Street Centre’s compliance with land use regulations, with the council in discussions with local law firm Normal Waterhouse to conduct the contentious probe.

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The Adelaide City Council has already spent more than $6000 on the review, which has been widely criticised by the homeless service provider, the state Opposition and some councillors, who argue it “lacks compassion” and will unfairly burden the Hutt Street Centre, which is set to experience a spike in service demand in the wake of the COVID-19 economic crisis.

However, those in support – including Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor – argue that a review is necessary to “put to bed once and for all” concerns from some neighbouring traders and residents that the Hutt Street Centre is unlawfully expanding, leading to what they claim has been a spike in criminal and antisocial behaviour in the city’s southeast.

Area councillor Robert Simms, who opposed the review, was earlier this month unsuccessful at revoking the council’s decision, prompting state Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas to announce he would consider drafting a private member’s bill in a further attempt to stop the inquiry from taking place.

In response to questions from InDaily, the council’s governance manager Rudi Deco said preliminary discussions were underway with Norman Waterhouse lawyers in relation to the review’s brief.

He said the estimated cost of the review was in the “rough order” of $25,000 to $40,000.

That figure could be exceeded because the council decided to not set a cost cap.

At the end of May, the council already racked up just under $6200 in legal fees relating to the review, including $2600 on preliminary advice.

“We have engaged Norman Waterhouse Lawyers to brief a senior planning practitioner,” Deco said.

“We anticipate the review will take approximately eight weeks – subject to change.”

The Hutt Street Centre, which helps about 200 people experiencing homelessness each day, argues it has already conducted a “significant review” of its development history and is confident it has complied with planning law.

Burns said earlier this month that legal advisers estimated that the cost of defending the centre could be “extensive” due to the complexity of the review.

He said the review was “unnecessary” at a time when the council faces a bourgeoning hole in its budget in light of COVID-19.

The review, which was pushed by Deputy Lord Mayor Alexander Hyde, will examine the lawfulness of current and historic development approvals at the Hutt Street Centre.

It will also determine the impact of its land use on surrounding businesses and residents.

It follows a unanimous Council Assessment Panel decision in April to approve a $2 million upgrade of the Hutt Street Centre to improve access into and out of the premise, and to make way for a new front foyer, laundry, recreation spaces, canopy and outdoor kitchen.

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