Ballina Council's alleged 'double-cross'

THE developers of a $100-million bulky goods complex planned for West Ballina have threatened to take Ballina Shire Council to court.

Homeworld Ballina alleges the council used information from Homeworld's proposals to plan its own bulky goods development and that it sought to rezone a section of its land for bulky goods retailing 'to the benefit of the council and the detriment of Homeworld'.

The council has denied the claims, saying its plans to rezone 15.7 hectares of land to the north of the Southern Cross Industrial Estate were well under way before Homeworld lodged its development application.

The 29,000 square-metre Homeworld Ballina complex was given the green light by the council in February this year, and construction work is expected to start mid-2009.

But a letter from Homeworld Ballina's solicitors to the council, seen by The Northern Star, claims the council promoted its land north of the Southern Cross Industrial Estate 'for rezoning to bulky goods retailing to the detriment of land not owned by council'.

The letter also claims the process leading to the rezoning of the council land was flawed and the council used Homeworld's commercial-in-confidence documents for the benefit of the council and to the detriment of Homeworld.

Ballina Shire Council General Manager Paul Hickey said the council 'totally refutes' all claims outlined in the letter.

“The letter in question has been forwarded to our solicitors for an appropriate response,” Mr Hickey said.

Mr Hickey said the council had resolved to rezone about 15.7 hectares of land to the north of the Southern Cross Industrial Estate to industrial zone in 2004, which he said would allow for a wide range of industrial uses, including bulky goods retailing.

“The resolution to rezone this land was well before any development application from Homeworld was submitted to council,” Mr Hickey said.

“The rezoning was the next stage of the Southern Cross Industrial Estate, which council has been developing and selling for in excess of 20 years.”

Mr Hickey said mandatory exhibition procedures were adhered to in respect to the rezoning process. This involved public exhibition and ultimately it was the Minister for Planning, not council, who approved the rezoning in 2007.

Grant McLennan, Managing Director of Brisbane-based Macpro Properties, which is behind the Homeworld Ballina development, confirmed a notice had been served to the council outlining the company's concerns.

“It's a bit bemusing when you've got a local government authority approving your application and planning the same style of development on its own land,” he said.

Mr McLennan said the council had been given 14 days to act on the letter before Homeworld would seek court orders against the council.



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