New fears of council park sell-off emerge

FEARS the Suffolk Park Caravan Park may be sold off to developers have resurfaced this week following a new push to reclassify the land.

In a report to the council's strategic planning committee this week, Byron Shire Council staff recommended the land be reclassified from community to operational, so the council could continue to operate and profit from the existing caravan park.

The recommendation followed legal advice park operations were potentially breaching the Local Government Act and it would have to close if it were to remain classified entirely as community land.

But changing the land to operational would mean it could be sold - something the community of Suffolk Park has been fighting for almost 20 years

Suffolk Park resident Peter Wegner, who has a long association with the park, said the land was originally bequeathed to the community by private landowner George Suffolk in the 1920s and there was strong feeling it should remain that way. However, consecutive council administrations had been hell-bent on preparing the prime site for a possible future sale, he said.

In 1996, the then cash-strapped council made an attempt to sell, but was blocked following fierce community opposition. Since then, there have been at least two more attempts to reclassify, Mr Wegner said.

He said that although the current council was unlikely to sell off the site, changing the land's classification would open up the possibility.

Byron Shire Mayor Jan Barham said much of the confusion at the park centred on the status of its permanent residents, with concerns that they could be moved on if the park were to retain its community classification.

Despite council staff's report this week, she said the council was committed to retaining the community status.

“We're trying to find a way forward to maintain it as community land but provide security to the long-term residents,” she said.

One possibility is dividing the park into distinct management areas.

Council is also looking into providing council-owned affordable rental housing at the site.

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