Fears of Suffolk Park land grab
SUFFOLK PARK residents fear a council rip-off of community land that could be worth $30 million on the real estate market.
Byron Shire Council is moving to reclassify the land, a 1.3ha beachside block in Alcorn Street which currently houses the Suffolk Park Caravan Park.
If the block is changed from ‘community’ to ‘operational’, it would enable the present or future councils to sell it off, according to the Suffolk Park Progress Association (SPPA).
“It would be very tempting and relatively easy for a future cash-strapped council to sell it to developers for tens of millions,” SPPA secretary Greg Duggan said.
The fears were expressed at a meeting attended by more than 80 people on Tuesday night.
The strong sentiment of the meeting was to retain community title and it decided to challenge the council to abandon its plans.
Two motions were passed unanimously, calling on general manager Graeme Faulkner to produce a plan of management for the park, and for councillors to rescind an earlier motion that recommended movement towards operational status.
Councillors voted in April to back a staff recommendation to take the next step to reclassify the land. The motion was opposed by mayor Jan Barham and Cr Richard Staples.
They attended Tuesday’s meeting, along with councillors Patrick Morrisey and Simon Richardson.
Also present were Irene Suffolk, Margaret McBride and Denise Suffolk, relatives of George Suffolk, who first gave the land to the community in 1922.
“The family members are aghast the gift from George Suffolk should still be under question,” SPPA president Karin Kolbe said.
Mr Duggan said the land was worth at least $30 million. It wasofficially transferred to the council in 1958 for 10 shillings.
“The Suffolk family stipulated that the land was community land for community use,” he said.
Real estate agent Ed Silk said he would not speculate on the value of the land, other than to say it would be ‘incredibly valuable’.
“To sell it off would be a great loss to the community,” he said.
The council’s head of corporate management, Mark Arnold, said under the recommendations before council the land would have a dual classification of part community and part operational.
“While the land has a dual classification it cannot be sold,” Mr Arnold said.