Council’s Quiet Divestment of Community Land
In a controversial decision in June, council resolved behind closed doors the future of ‘surplus’ parcels of ‘operational’ land for divestment.
Ratepayers deserve to know which council owned land is described as ‘surplus land’ and why it is being proposed to be divested!
FOKE has been strongly opposed to public land being sold off particularly when that land will never be returned to community use or replaced. Now over 27 council owned properties that were ‘community classified’ and maintained under Plans of Management are now classified as ‘operational’. Operational classification allows council to sell and allow the redevelopment of this land without ensuring a replacement.
Processes around the disposal of public land are supposed to be fully accountable and transparent! Whilst there are some issues around confidentiality with respect to land valuations, the community deserve openness and transparency as to which land is being divested and whether it will be replaced.
We believe that if community owned land is ‘surplus’ to Ku-ring-gai’s needs then ratepayers should be consulted prior to the land or property being considered for divestment by council!
As an example, Council’s Havilah Lane public car park in Lindfield which provided public car spaces for 25 cars was considered by Council as surplus council land and was sold to a developer for approximately $4.6 million for 8 storey unit development several years ago! The 25 carspaces that the Lindfield town centre lost from that commercial sale and disposal have not been replaced in the provision of new parking space in the Lindfield Village Green despite the Commissioner’s Reclassification Report recommendation that the money from the sale be spent back in Lindfield.
‘Community’ classification is council owned land which should be kept for use by the general public with the use and management of community land regulated by a plan of management.
‘Operational’ land is council owned land held as a temporary asset or as an investment, land which facilitates the carrying out of Council functions or land which may not be open to the general public, such as a works depot!
The problem that we have in Ku-ring-gai now is that the majority of council owned land is now reclassified ‘operational’. This includes community facilities and local parks such as Bates Park in Roseville Chase which is one of many holdings targeted for sale.
Operational classification of land takes the control out of the community and into the control of bureaucrats and councillors in deciding future outcomes which may or may not be in the long term public interest!
This is especially important at a time of increasing population where greater avenues for open space are essential to our residents’ health and amenity.