TAMWORTH Regional Council has been handed back responsibility for deciding the fate of a proposed $12 million redevelopment of the city’s premier sporting ground.
The Northern Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) dropped a bombshell yesterday when it excused itself from ruling on the controversial Scully Park No. 1 Oval development.
The announcement came on the same day the panel was due to determine West Tamworth League Club’s application to build a 53-room motel and function centre on the oval.
But the panel’s chairman Garry West called a press conference to say he had received legal advice on Wednesday questioning whether the JRPP had jurisdiction over the matter.
He said he met with representatives of both the panel and council yesterday and decided the development should never have been referred to the JRPP in the first place.
“I apologise to council and I apologise to the community for the confusion at this late stage,” he said.
“If we had proceeded to determine it, it could have been subject to legal challenge and any decision made by the panel could have been void.”
Council general manager Paul Bennett said his staff’s assessment of Wests’ application, which recommended the project be approved, would now be subject to a peer review.
“The independent reviewer will be someone who’s removed from Tamworth and can be considered totally removed from the process,” he said.
Council referred the application to the JRPP last month amid concerns its ownership of Scully Park No. 2 Oval, which it has leased to Wests for decades, posed a conflict of interest.
But legal advice provided to the JRPP from the NSW Department of Planning and Environment raised doubts over whether this was of relevance to the plans for Scully Park No. 1 Oval.
Wests Entertainment Group chief executive officer Rod Laing said the club had been surprised by the sudden turn of events.
However, he said the delay would have no impact on the club’s plans as it had always intended to wait until after the football season to begin work, if it received approval.
“Once the decision’s made, whether it goes against us or for us, we’ll move forward,” he said.
Save Our Scully Alliance spokesman Stephen Young said the pressure was now on the council to act in the community’s interest.
“It is hoped the Tamworth councillors carefully consider the public interest involved in this development application. The proposal would mean the loss of two green spaces for community use in the city. The community would be the loser in this deal,” he said.