ACT News


High Court upholds Giralang shops redevelopment appeal

Opponents of an upgrade to a derelict shopping centre at Giralang have had a win, with the highest court in the country upholding their appeal and ordering the ACT government to pay legal costs.

But their fight is far from over, with the High Court judgement instead putting the matter back in the hands of the ACT Court of Appeal.

The site has been the subject of a protracted court battle since 2011 when then Planning Minister Simon Corbell used call-in powers to approve the construction of a large Woolworths supermarket, retail outlets, restaurant and car parks.

Opponents to the redevelopment, an alliance of Canberra businesses including nearby supermarkets, fought Mr Corbell's decision.

The High Court found the operators of the Supa Express supermarket at Kaleen and the IGA supermarket at Evatt, were "persons aggrieved" by Mr Corbell's decision to approve the shopping centre's redevelopment as they were likely to suffer a loss of profitability from the greater exposure to commercial competition.

But the Kaleen supermarket landlord's appeal was dismissed with costs as it had pointed to "a less immediate and direct effect" from the shopping centre approval.


The High Court found the two businesses were entitled to seek a review of Mr Corbell's decision in the Court of Appeal, overruling the lower court's earlier decision that the group were not "aggrieved" by the redevelopment's approval as they had not identified any "special interests" beyond the potential economic impact.

Kaleen supermarket owner Chris Haridemos, who is part of the alliance challenging the development's approval, welcomed the ruling.

"We are thrilled that the High Court have found that we have standing, especially as all five judges ruled in our favour," he said. 

"It's been an incredibly difficult time for a small business like ours, and those around us who have supported us through this whole ordeal.

"[It's] very disappointing that we never got the opportunity to comment on the economic impact assessment which was never notified by [the ACT Planning and Land Authority], which formed part of this current DA.

"If we had been given the opportunity (along with others) we would have been able to point out the shortcomings of the impact assessment and I believe this whole mess would not exist today. The real question is, why was it never notified?"

In a short statement, ACT Planning Minister Mick Gentleman said the High Court decision was "being considered by the ACT Government".

"As the matter has been referred back to the Supreme Court of Appeal, it would not be appropriate to comment until the matter has been further considered by that court," he said.

The opposition seized on the High Court ruling as an example of a "terrible legacy in the planning portfolio" left by Mr Corbell and Andrew Barr during his stint as planning minister prior to 2011.

"If this is their legacy in planning, I'm concerned about the damage they can do to all portfolios in their running of the territory," opposition planning spokesman Alistair Coe said.

"Given the Supreme Court has indicated it will almost exclusively be dealing with criminal matters in 2015, the site could be left in limbo for years to come."

Mr Haridemos said he supported the need of Giralang residents to have a local shopping centre.

"We would encourage the government to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that a local centre is delivered at Giralang in accordance with Draft Variation 304."

Demolition of the shops began in September.