For many years, litigants from 9 Talus Street, Naremburn have been battling Willoughby Council to reopen the Talus Street Reserve for Public Recreation.
The reserve is Crown Land that had been dedicated for Public Recreation but in recent years Council had leased the Reserve and it has been used as a privately run tennis facility.
In the latest Orders handed down by the Equity Division of the Supreme Court of NSW, Willoughby Council has been directed to “take all practical steps to cause the Reserve to be and remain available for public recreation, including to ensure that access to tennis courts on the Reserve is open to all members of the public and is not dependent on membership of any club”
Is that the end of this matter. Can we proceed to heal the rift between the local residents and Council? The decision that Willoughby Council now faces is how does it interpret and meet the order.
The orders also anticipate that the tennis courts might remain within the Reserve. However, it is unclear what ‘opens to all members of the public‘ means. For instance, not all members of the public might have the where-with-all to pay to use the courts. So will access to the courts be free? The orders also anticipate that the courts may be leased by directing that “any net profit derived by the Talus Trustee in leasing or licencing the Reserve is applied to the reserved purpose of public recreation of the Reserve“. Does all the area have to be made available to the public? Can all or some of the courts still be leased to a private organisation? Is a ‘time-sharing’ approach applicable? Time will tell!
There may be wider implications of the court decision. How many other portions of Crown Land reserved for public recreation within NSW (and Willoughby) have been alienated to private interests? There are caravan parks, golf courses and probably a plethora of other private occupations on Crown Land. Will it take local residents near these facilities to take legal action to unearth the facts or will Willoughby Council proactively review their Crown Reserves and take the appropriate action?