Who will pay the legal bill?
A DECISION by unelected members of a partly council, partly government-appointed planning panel to reject a $10.3 million expansion of one of Tweed's mobile home parks may push ratepayers into an expensive legal battle.
Tweed Shire Council could be forced to wear the cost of defending an expected court appeal against the decision even though council planning officers recommended the expansion be approved with strict conditions.
But nobody is saying who exactly will wear the costs of a barrister and a legal team to defend the case because the situation has never arisen since the joint planning panel was appointed last July.
A council spokeswoman could not say whether the council or the NSW Government would meet the cost of defending an appeal.
“We are currently seeking advice from the JRPP (Joint Regional Planning Panel) secretariat in the Department of Planning,” she said.
So far, even the park owner Keith Noble is not aware exactly why the plan for an extra 45 homes, a recreation hall and swimming pool at the Noble Lakeside Park at Kingscliff was refused because the panel has not published detailed reasons.
The panel members, headed by State Government-appointed chairman Gary West, only provided brief verbal reasons during a meeting held after 4pm last Friday in Murwillumbah – the afternoon before the federal election when many people were attending or preparing for Tweed's banana festival celebrations.
It has not yet published minutes of the meeting but Mr West said the reasons included the detrimental impact on the natural and built environment, a change of view for existing residents to an urban environment, noise during construction and concern about flooding.
Only a small group of people, including some park residents, opposed to the expansion. Mayor Warren Polglase, who manages the park, and owner Keith Noble sat in the public gallery.
Cr Polglase has declined to comment because of a conflict of interest.
Mr Noble said he was waiting for the reasons for refusal “in writing” but, asked if he would appeal to the NSW Land and Environment Court, said:
“Something like that could happen.
“We will look at it very carefully.”
Mr Noble said he was “extremely” disappointed approval was not given “seeing as it was recommended by the council” .
Mr Noble had sought a $10.3 million expansion of the park which currently has 254 manufactured homes.
Each of the proposed extra 45 homes, would be partly built on piers over the man-made lake.
Existing park residents with views across the lake would in future look at those homes, rather than at trees and lawn, if the plan had been approved.