Council court battle looms over North Adelaide college expansion

A North Adelaide college could find itself in a Supreme Court battle with the Adelaide City Council, after the Environment, Resources and Development Court granted approval to double the height of one of its buildings.

May 27, 2019, updated May 28, 2019
St Ann's College has been granted approval to extend the height of one of its buildings to four storeys. Render: St Ann's College

St Ann's College has been granted approval to extend the height of one of its buildings to four storeys. Render: St Ann's College

St Ann’s College on Brougham Place was earlier this month granted approval in the ERD court to build another 12 bedrooms and ensuite bathrooms on top of the “Kennedy Brooks Enterprise Deck” building.

The expansion would increase the building’s size from two storeys to four – roughly 16 metres above the building’s current height.

The ERD court ruling follows a council assessment panel decision last July to block the expansion.

Both the panel and some North Adelaide residents had argued that the proposed expansion would compromise residents’ views over the city and the state-heritage listed Brougham Place Uniting Church.

The panel also claimed that the proposed development would breach a North Adelaide Institutions and Colleges planning code (DPA), instigated in 2017, which stipulates barriers to developments that obstruct neighbouring residents’ views.

But the ERD court claimed in its judgement that residents’ views would be “suitably protected” under the proposed development and that while there could be changes to views “the impacts are considered to be not unreasonable”.

Adelaide City councillors will tomorrow night be called to support a motion put forward by north ward councillor Phil Martin, which instructs the council’s CEO to consider lodging a Supreme Court appeal rejecting the ERD’s decision.

Martin told InDaily lodging an appeal was necessary to prevent a precedent being set for other college expansions.

“You would have to say that the Colleges and Institutions DPA has fallen over at the first hurdle,” he said.

“The intention of the Government was to protect that view – it had to be protected specifically in accordance with the terms of the DPA.

“The ERD thinks it won’t hurt to lose a bit of that view  – I think it hurts a lot of residents.”

Martin said the ERD court’s decision to approve the St Ann’s College expansion demonstrated that the Colleges and Institutions DPA was flawed.

He said the proposed development would significantly obstruct residents’ views and impact on the character of the North Adelaide area.

Martin was supported by area councillor Anne Moran, who said she would second the motion at tomorrow night’s meeting.

“We don’t often challenge in the Supreme Court but because this is such a serious matter and because it could cause a domino effect with other colleges trying to do the same thing I fully support this,” she said.

“I am quite austere with financial management and I am certainly reluctant to spend ratepayers’ money without cause, but this certainly warrants it.”

A council spokesperson said the total estimate of fees incurred by the council in relation to the St Ann’s College appeal was $124,492.00.

If the council lodges an appeal in the Supreme Court, it would need to forgo thousands of dollars more in legal fees.

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Acting Lord Mayor Houssam Abiad said he was reluctant to support Martin’s motion due to the additional cost involved in taking the matter to the Supreme Court.

“I think council’s already expended significant resources through an ERD court process to be able to get their case heard,” he said.

“I think that’s where it needs to stop and anything further than that would put a significant risk on council and a significant cost on council that I don’t know what the outcome would be.

“It doesn’t matter what the outcome is, it’s going to be a lose-lose for our ratepayers.”

Abiad said supporting a Supreme Court appeal could cause division among city ratepayers, many of whom he said were in support of developments going ahead.

“If we are taking it further to the Supreme Court, are we taking it on behalf of which ratepayers?

“Are we taking it on behalf of two or three that are disgruntled in the area, or are we trying to serve a bigger purpose for the area as a whole?”

But Martin said the council needed to demonstrate unwavering opposition to the development to send a positive message to ratepayers.

“We as a council can behave like wusses or we can stand up for what we think is right,” he said.

North Adelaide resident Michael Gibb, who lives on Brougham Place, said he and other North Adelaide residents were planning to send a letter to the council asking it to proceed with Supreme Court action.

“It (the development) will block my view and my neighbour’s view but then the development will also spread along Melbourne Street, blocking views for those residents,” he said.

“It will affect the whole amenity of the area and it creates the precedent that other developments similar to this can go ahead, which will ultimately effect house prices and the character of North Adelaide.”

St Ann’s College principal Dr Rosemary Brook declined to comment, saying she was unaware of tomorrow night’s scheduled debate.

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