A LAND claim for the former Armidale Court House site in the Beardy Street Mall has been denied after a lengthy and detailed assessment process, Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall said today.
Mr Marshall said he was advised last week by staff from the office of Minister for Lands Niall Blair that the claim on the historic building, made by the NSW Aboriginal Lands Council, had been formally determined and refused.
The claim was lodged more than 12 months ago following the opening of the new $17 million Court House precinct in Moore Street.
Mr Marshall said there was now a four-month window available to the NSW Aboriginal lands Council to challenge the Minister’s determination in the courts. It is not known yet whether the Lands Council will appeal the decision
“It would be very unfortunate to see this issue dragged out through the courts for another year or two, as we have seen recently in Newcastle, so I hope that now the application has been refused, that it is the end of the matter,” he said.
“The community is very keen to see this issue finally settled so that discussions can re-commence about the future community ownership and use of this important building.”
Built in the early 1860s, the old court house is Armidale’s oldest remaining public building and a landmark building in the city.
Mr Marshall said that pending the extinguishment of the four-month appeal period, he intended to resume discussions shortly with the University of New England, Armidale Dumaresq Council and various community groups about potential ownership structures and community uses for the building.
“Of course, any appeal in the courts would impact on how quickly a new use for the old court house can be chosen and acted upon,” he said.
“I am hoping we can move forward now with an agreed proposal from the community to take over the property from the state government rather than the government seeking a commercial sale.
“While the former court house has little commercial value, it has enormous historical and community significance and there’s no doubt that the preference is to keep it in community hands.”