The City of Ballarat's plans to redevelop the former saleyards site in Latrobe Street will be delayed after council said changing the land's legal status would require parliamentary intervention.
Council issued a statement yesterday saying 'detailed legal advice obtained as part of future land use planning for the former Latrobe Street saleyards has provided clarity on the process and timeframes to allow alternative future uses at the site.'
'Legal restrictions mean the land currently cannot be used for anything other than a municipal saleyards. The restrictions must be removed to enable alternative future uses.'
The Courier understands those legal restrictions are a caveat on the use of the Crown land site, issued when the yards were created and preventing them from any use other than as saleyards.
The prospective obstacle to redevelopment is not a recently-discovered issue.
In 2019 then City of Ballarat strategic projects principal planner Steve Natt warned the process of changing the saleyard land use would be lengthy.
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"If council wants to change the title of the land from the existing cattle yard use to a public use, this will take some time, maybe a couple of years, for the necessary Act (to go) through parliament," he told the Times News Group.
"The land was granted to City of Ballarat in 1886 for use as cattle yards, so it requires an Act of Parliament to change the title of that land from a cattle yard to another public use under the Crown Land (Reserves) Act."
"There are a number of public uses under the Act protected by a Queen's Caveat on the title that require an Act of Parliament to remove, which we want to have a serious look at."
A Queen's Caveat, now known as a Registrar's Caveat, takes the following form:
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II forbids registration of any transfer or dealing with any part of the land by the named registered proprietor.
The caveats were issued to prevent improper dealings on public land. If the caveat is not removed the land cannot be sold and the original use must be respected.
In the statement City of Ballarat's director of development and growth Natalie Robertson said the council was working with the Victorian Government on a 'legal process to unlock the site'.
"While working through the complex planning and legal implications..., we have also sought the community's thoughts on how best to develop the former saleyards site. So the community is informed of our progress, it is important we communicate the key issues and why it will take some time to bring to fruition the La Trobe Street Saleyards Precinct Amendment process."
A heritage overlay amendment sought by the council in 2020 for the site is not affected by the caveat, Ms Robertson said.
Council's Latrobe Street Saleyards Precinct Urban Renewal Project Background Analysis document of June 2019 had also noted "The saleyards is under Crown land ownership and requires consultation with the State Government to negotiate future re-use of the land."
In that analysis Ballarat's residents were clearly preferential for the land to be retained in public ownership and developed for public use.
"The community has told us that the saleyards site would be the ideal location for a new community use which would be a drawcard for the precinct and benefit the broader Ballarat community," the analysis found.
"Providing a recreational use on the saleyards site may act as an extension of Victoria Park, without upsetting the important historical layout and purpose of the park."
The City of Ballarat plans to call for tenders to commence rehabilitation works on the site, for the removal of concrete, bluestone and other infrastructure, after soil testing is completed.
Buildings and fixtures protected by a heritage overlay, including the original selling pavilion, administration building and livestock pens will be unaffected by these works, council said.
It's understood original bluestone pathways on the site are also protected.
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