On-site inspection: Taking part in an on-site inspection at the Ramada Hotel and Suites in Ballina before the NSW Land and Environment Court hearing on Monday are (from left) Ballina Shire Council planner Bob Thornton, The Point restaurant owner John Cordina and consultant planner Neil Ingham.
On-site inspection: Taking part in an on-site inspection at the Ramada Hotel and Suites in Ballina before the NSW Land and Environment Court hearing on Monday are (from left) Ballina Shire Council planner Bob Thornton, The Point restaurant owner John Cordina and consultant planner Neil Ingham. Doug Eaton

Ramada workers live in fear

THE operators of the Ramada Hotel at Ballina will not give evidence during this week's NSW Land and Environment Court hearing after signing a deal with the developers late last week.

During the first day of the hearing yesterday, Commissioner Graham Brown was told that Ballina Booking Service – the company which runs the Ramada – had made an agreement with Slipway Properties.

This will prohibit company representatives from giving evidence on behalf of BBS.

But Peter Nair, who was the chief operating officer for BBS Hospitality Group until ‘about 48 hours' before the hearing, was subpoenaed by Ballina Shire Council.

The hearing concerns an appeal lodged by town planner Steve Connelly, on behalf of Slipway Properties, over the council's refusal of a change of use application.

If approved, the application would allow up to 94 of the Ramada's 115 units to be used for permanent residency.

Yesterday the court heard from those opposed to the change of use, including the owner of The Point restaurant, John Cordina.

He said reducing the number of rooms available for tourism would greatly impact on his business.

Mr Cordina also expressed concerns about mixing tourists with permanent residents, and raised issues about the hotel's liquor licence.

Leanne Cawley spoke on behalf of about 60 employees of the Ramada and The Point.

She told the court that many jobs would be in jeopardy if the change of use was approved.

“Many of the staff have stated that they are quite terrified,” Ms Cawley said.

“It (Ballina) is not an easy place to get a job.”

Others who spoke in opposition to the application included Northern Rivers Tourism chief executive Russell Mills and Ballina District Community Services Association president Craig Zerk.

During the afternoon session of the hearing, the court heard from expert witnesses, including town planners, consultants and architects.

The council is being represented by former Land and Environment Court judge Noel Hemmings QC, while Slipway Properties has engaged Peter Tomasetti SC.

The Ramada hearing continues today, with Commissioner Brown inspecting hotel rooms before returning to Ballina Courthouse.



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