Battle to save St Clair reserve heats up


Unchecked urban expansion has chewed up large areas of Adelaide's productive agricultural land for poorly planned and poorly designed housing developments, with no amenities and little or no access to public transport.

Over the past few years, several large areas of metropolitan land have become available. But, rather than fostering innovative, community-based developments, the government has opted for feathering big developers' nests.

The latest example of this has arisen from the ongoing battle over the redevelopment of Cheltenham Racecourse and adjoining industrial sites in Adelaide's western suburbs.

Part of the redevelopment plan involves a decision by Charles Sturt Council to swap 4.7 hectares of St Clair Reserve for an equivalent sized parcel of degraded, possibly contaminated, land from one of the former industrial sites.

The Labor Party-dominated council claims it needs to carve up the 60-year-old park to build a high density residential, commercial and retail development next to the Woodville railway station.

However, Woodville residents aren't convinced.

A very vocal community opposition has received extensive media coverage. The campaign, spearheaded by the Save St Clair Ratepayers Association (SSCRA), is growing rapidly.
The council refuses to release details of the community consultation submissions. But the SSCRA believes about 98% were against destroying the park.

On November 9, the night the land swap was put to a vote, 300 people crowded into the Charles Sturt Council chamber to protest.

More than 600 attended a rally and packed the council chambers foyer on November 23, when a motion from councillor Robert Grant to overturn the land swap decision was voted down.

Community members have declared they are prepared to form a human barricade at the reserve to stop the bulldozers moving in.

Greens MLC Mark Parnell said at the rally: "Councils that bring their communities with them do not have hundreds of people standing in the foyer booing their decisions."

SSCRA president Kirsten Alexander is convinced the decision had been largely made before the consultation process even began.

She told Green Left Weekly the council and the state government are simply giving the developers what they want, rather than doing what is best for the community.

She said a valuation of St Clair Reserve, undertaken as part of the deal, is based on its current usage as recreational land, not residential. Its value as residential land will be much greater, and the council and state government are in effect handing the developers millions of dollars.

Alexander also pointed out the enormous amount of water that will be required to establish the proposed new park.

A rally at Parliament House on December 3 heard that a request to the Supreme Court for a judicial review of the local government minster's approval of the deal had been successful.

The SSCRA claimed the minister had acted without considering the merits of the proposal. The government has undertaken to review the land swap deal.

Residents, though, are convinced the battle is not over and have vowed to continue fighting and take the issue into the election.