News

Big bills for legal battles between council and developers

LEGAL battles between the Southern Downs Regional Council and developers have cost ratepayers more than $300,000 in the past financial year.

CEO David Keenan has confirmed the council spent more than half a million dollars in the 2014/15 financial year on legal costs.

Legal expenses for the current term of council are well over those of the previous term.

In the lead up to the 2012 election it was revealed the then council had spent more than $330,000 over their three year term.

In 2014 it was reported the council was battling nearly a dozen court actions, some of which were predicted to cost ratepayers dearly.

During the past 12 months the council has been involved in a number of legal stoushes over proposed developments including units at Rowland St and a wedding function venue at Gordon Country in Goomburra.

While the exact cost of each legal dispute hasn't been specified, Mr Keenan said $535,020 was spent on legal fees.

The majority of the council legal costs were spent on planning and enforcement.

"Of this figure, the Planning Applications area accounted for $292,167, whilst in the Environmental Services area $78,930 was spent with a further $35,267 expended on Planning Compliance," Mr Keenan said.

"There were also legal costs associated with the Allora Water Main."

Mr Keenan was unable to provide an exact estimate on the number of legal cases the council was involved in during the past 12 months.

While there is no forecast for the number of legal cases in the next 12 months, Mr Keenan confirmed the council had budgeted $245,189.

"Almost half way through the financial year, $104,196 has been expended," he said.

"Legal actions range from issues in the local courts to other matters that have been taken to the Supreme Court."

Legal fees are part and parcel of council business, with developers able to lodge appeals against council decisions in the Planning and Environment Court of Queensland.

The process can be notoriously slow, with most appeals finalised out of court at a significant cost.

Matters that can't be negotiated often make it to full-blown trials, which can end in the council hiring barristers and specialist witnesses.

Topics:  battlers, bills, council, developers, warwick



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