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A report recommending that Byron Shire Council reclassify the Suffolk Park Caravan Park as operational has raised major concerns for the Suffolk Park Progress Association.
A public meeting to discuss the issue was called by the association and held on Tuesday night.
Before the meeting, association secretary Greg Duggan said the report was from the council’s strategic planning committee.
“This issue of reclassifying the park to operational has been bubbling since 1996,” he said.
“For many years the association has fought this as it’s concerned that it will open the way for a potential sale of the site in the future rather than leaving the caravan park in the hands of the community.”
The association said that while not doubting the honourable intentions of the current councillors and staff, once this 1.3 ha of prime beachfront real estate was reclassified as operational, it would be very tempting and relatively easy for a future cash-strapped council to sell it to developers for maybe tens of millions, just as they planned to do in 1996 until stopped by the efforts of the association.
Mr Duggan said the land was worth more than $20 million.
He said the land had originally been transferred to council in 1958 by the Suffolk family for a total of 10 shillings.
“The Suffolk family stipulated that the land was community land for community use,” Mr Duggan said.
“Byron Mayor Jan Barham has given us her support and so has Cr Richard Staples, but the rest of the councillors have all voted to consider the report.”
Following a council meeting on April 22 this year when the issue was tabled, the association said it understood there were three competing uses for the land: community use, low-cost housing and affordable camping.
The association said these three uses could co-exist on community land and need not to compete.
“The debate on this issue so far has been based on council’s assertion that it is not legal to run a holiday park on community land, but it turns out that this is not necessarily so,” the association said.
“Mayor Barham, in her spirited defence of the Suffolk Park community land, said she understood that Kiama Council was doing just that.”
Mr Duggan said the association would continue to lobby council about this issue.
The next strategic planning committee meeting will be held in September.