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Woolworths Vs Mosman Council Court Case Kicks Off

The battle for a Woolworths in Mosman is being heard today in the Land and Environment Court, with Mosman Council facing a massive legal bill to defend their decision after knocking back the big retailer’s development application, some claim it could be close to $1M dollars.

Mosman Council who is also on a mission to stop the NSW State Government changing their Scenic Protection Area Plan that has seen local residents knocked back from having a garage on new homes close to the water because of what is described as “streetscape” planning objected despite several experts claiming the application complied with planning regulations.

The hearing is listed in the Land and Environment Court for the  5 and 6 October 2021, before Commissioner Horton, the case is set to see the Council go head-to-head with Australia’s largest retail group.

Woolworths has already accused Mosman Council of making up planning rules “on the run” in its attempt to block the supermarket giant from opening a store in the prestigious north shore suburb.

The claims were made in the course of previous legal action which has sparked a backlash among some residents, who say the council is wasting ratepayers’ money defending Woolworths’ appeal.

Andrew Pickles SC will appear on behalf of Mosman Council who are desperate to win the case, he will be assisted by Michael Staunton of Counsel instructed by Jane Hewitt, Partner HWL Ebsworth Lawyers.

Today’s hearing kicked off with a visit to the Military Road site by Commissioner Horton and representative legal advisors.

The formal commencement of the Court proceedings kicks off at 12 noon today, followed by submissions from resident objectors.

Due to the large public interest in these proceedings, the Court has arranged for a Livestream of the hearing via YouTube, so that non-participants are able to view the proceedings online.

A small group of objectors who have been described as a “small noisy minority in the local community who also oppose anything ‘new’ or run by a ‘big’ retailer” have already lost previous court cases up against Woolworths, when the same Mosman Village Community Group, cost residents over $600,000 after the Land & Environment Court approved a Dan Murphy store which is now owned by the Endeavour Group.

The Woolworths owned business is now one of the most popular retail stores in Mosman with none of the issues that the objectors raised coming to fruition.

Among the Mosman residents who have been labelled as “serial objectors” to the Woolworths application are former Mayor Peter Abelson who today gave evidence in the hearing claiming that he had the support of Mosman residents who he claimed objected to the development.

This is in contrast to a recent research study done by ChannelNews which revealed that of 100 people asked whether they supported a Woolworths in Mosman 92% said Yes to the question.

Other Mosman residents who are set to support the Councils objection and will present their claims to the Court include.

  • John Wakefield – i Cabramatta Road
  • Jenny & Ross Heidtman – 713-715 Military Road
  • Brooke Johnson – 6/1 Belmont Road
  • Susan Lockhart – 1/28 Muson Street
  • Peter Twiney – 3 Cabramatta Road

In an effort to support their objections Mosman Council has engaged the following experts Paul Davies (Heritage), Paul Grech (Town Planning), Richard Haydon (Acoustic), Craig McLaren (Traffic Engineering).

Craig Covich, Mosman Council’s Environment & Planning claimed in a memo that was leaked to Abelson claimed that “Some of the contentions initially raised by Council have been resolved by amended plans (these were renotified), however there are still some matters in dispute, and the experts will be giving evidence on those matters. Loading dock, access traffic and parking are the main issues in the proceedings. There are some heritage issues still however they may be resolved”.

Reading a prepared statement Abelson was cut short and asked to summarise his claims in today’s hearing.

The SMH reported recently that In documents lodged with the Land and Environment Court, the council contends the proposed Woolworths Metro – a smaller version of the full supermarket – would have “an unacceptable impact” on the heritage significance of shops along Military Road.

Woolworths had already agreed to preserve the facade of the shopfronts. But the council argues the supermarket would destroy the site’s heritage regardless as it would consolidate six shops into one – “an atypically large allotment” – and remove the “shop-top housing” character of the street (people living above a shop).

In its reply, Woolworths’ development arm Fabcot pointed out none of those complaints were among the council’s original reasons for rejecting the proposed supermarket, nor was the word “heritage” even mentioned among the reasons for refusal.

Fabcot argued there was nothing in the Development Control Plan that prohibits consolidation of shopfronts or imposes a maximum shop size, and the council “ought not seek to create and enforce ad hoc planning controls on the run, outside of even the DCP”.

More to follow.



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