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Hutt St Centre hopes legal clearance will end neighbourhood dispute

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The Hutt Street Centre says a controversial legal review into its compliance with land use regulations has “put to bed” long-standing tensions in the city’s southeast, as the cost of the inquiry exceeds the reported $41,000.

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The Adelaide City Council’s legal services consultant Brett Kahland told a poverty select parliamentary committee hearing this morning that the cost of the review exceeded the originally-reported $41,086, as that figure did not take into consideration administration and council soliciter costs.

He later clarified to InDaily that the council solicitor costs to which he was referring were only minor and the “majority” of the solicitor costs were included in the originally-reported $41,086.

He said he was yet to determine the actual cost of the review, but it was likely it was “well and truly under $50,000”.

The review, commissioned by the council in May, was sparked by a Council Assessment Panel decision to approve a $2.2 million upgrade of the Hutt Street Centre, following claims the development could contravene land use regulations. 

Some neighbouring traders and residents argued that the Hutt Street Centre was unlawfully expanding, leading to what they claimed had been a spike in criminal and antisocial behaviour in the city’s southeast.

The review was conducted by barrister Dr Nicholas Manetta on behalf of Norman Waterhouse Lawyers and was published last week. 

It found that there were no “unauthorised uses on the land” and that “the regulation of antisocial behaviour in public areas is squarely a police responsibility”.

Kahland told the committee it was “not an everyday common occurrence” for the council to commission a review following a Council Assessment Panel decision and he had no knowledge of similar reviews taking place in the 11 years he had worked for the council.

“It is unusual in that sense, but as the solicitor and barrister explained to Council, the type of work involved in this review is not unusual for a planning lawyer as such – going through historical uses, going through files of this nature, looking at intensification,” he said.

“The topics were not unusual, but the nature of this review following a CAP decision is not an everyday occurrence.”

Asked if he thought the review was “money well spent”, Kahland responded “it is at the discretion of council to do so”.

“It is my understanding given the angst around some of the uncertainty at planning law that this is an important piece of work to, I think, undertake a comprehensive review and hopefully give some closure to this matter so that the community and relevant stakeholders can move on,” he said.

The Hutt Street Centre’s chair Tim O’Callaghan told the committee that he thought the review was “unnecessary”, but “at least it had the effect of putting to bed an issue that’s been bubbling around for some time and to that extent it was useful”.

Asked if he thought the review would “be the end of the matter”, O’Callaghan responded “yes”.

“We are working well with our neighbours and like all neighbours we don’t always agree on everything, but what we do agree on is that Hutt Street should be a vibrant, welcoming, safe street and that there is a lot that can be done – both by local government and state government – to improve that part of the world,” he said.

“We join with organisations like the Hutt Street Traders and the South-East Residents’ Association in finding ways to improve the street.

“We get along like all good neighbours do.”

O’Callaghan said the Hutt Street Centre was on track to complete the upgrade of its 65-year-old premises by February next year.

The work involves building a new front foyer, laundry, recreation spaces, canopy and outdoor kitchen.

The centre says the remodelled building will discourage people from lingering outside and improve services to those experiencing homelessness.

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