Swadlings timer yard could be forcibly taken. Photo: Lanie Tindale.

Posted by & filed under Inner West Independent.

BY LANIE TINDALE

Two local companies who have had their land acquired by the State government are seeking legal advice following the recent historic Supreme Court victory by a Lilyfield based business.

ASX-listed Property developer Desane’s recent win against the State in WestConnex acquisition case has raised questions about the rights of surrounding properties, owned by timber firm Swadlings Timber and crane hire company Gillespie Crane Services.

Judge David Hammerschlag ruled the acquisition of Desane’s 5275m^2 land on Lilyfield Road in Rozelle as invalid because it was ‘given for an improper purpose’.

The area was to be used for “open space and parkland” and not to be used as part of the Rozelle Interchange permanently. Only a ‘sliver’ of the land was to be used for a temporary truck corridor.

Swadlings and Gillespie Crane Services, who both own adjoining sites to the Desane land, applied to have their land to rezoned from industrial to residential before the compulsory acquisition in 2016.

All three companies had lodged applications to build apartments on these sites before the compulsory acquisition. They claim the rezoning process was delayed.

The two companies have already had their land acquired, but are soliciting legal advice after the Desane win.

The M4-M5 Link Environmental Impact Statement states that the Rozelle land is “required for a temporary construction and tunnelling site”.

The compensation given to Swadlings and Gillespie is still being considered by the Office of the NSW General Valuer.

John Gillespie has said that the original offer given to the company in exchange for the land, $13 million, is ‘ridiculously low’.

Gillespie owns a 5000m^2 parcel on 84 Lilyfield Road, Rozelle. The site is located about 1 km away from Anzac Bridge, and 3 km from the CBD.

Gillespie has asked for a 60 day extension on the June 30 moving deadline.

Swadlings is still in negotiations with Roads and Maritimes Services regarding compensation for its land.

The family business says it has spent $1 million on negotiations with the RMS.

Swadlings said that a private developer offered them $24 million for the land, if it was rezoned from industrial to residential. In comparison, they claim that the State government offered only $3 million.

“There was also a delay in the rezoning application process ahead of the compulsory acquisition of the property”.

The Desane verdict was handed down by the Supreme Court of NSW following an 18 month legal battle, and a nine-day trial.

The judge agreed that the acquisition did not comply with the Just Terms Act, and was therefore invalid.

The RMS and Desane went through a mediation process before Desane commenced legal proceedings.

Desane claimed that it could make $100 million through by developing the site for dwellings.

The chairperson of Desane is Professor John Sheehan, whose legal expertise is in “property, planning and law”.

Prof. Sheehan has claimed that the State Government are “land banking” – acquiring land below market value – just so they can later resell the property to help fund the WestConnex.

Desane, Swadlings and Gillespie are only one of 51 businesses who the State has compulsorily acquired land from to commence Stage 3 of the WestConnex.