City News

Cycleway objection “irrelevant”, admits Lord Mayor’s office

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore / File photo

A spokesperson for Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore has admitted staff in her office were in error when they linked a resident’s Development Application (DA) and his alleged opposition to the Bourke St cycleway.

Surry Hills resident Luke Harper, owner of an historic four-storey terrace house on Bourke St, alleges his 2011 DA for home renovations and improvements was knocked back due to his perceived opposition to the cycleway.

A briefing note prepared by the Lord Mayor’s office, obtained by Mr Harper, said: “The terrace is owned by Luke Harper, a key objector to the Bourke St cycleway proposal and his architects are Cracknell and Lonergan … who have proven difficult for Council staff to work with in the past.”

The note was circulated to all Clover Moore Independent Team councillors. Council unanimously rejected Mr Harper’s DA, despite the City of Sydney’s planners recommending its approval with conditions.

Mr Harper subsequently took the matter to the NSW Land and Environment Court, which ruled in his favour.

The City commissioned probity auditors O’Connor Marsden to investigate allegations by Mr Harper that matters unrelated to his DA were taken into account – but O’Connor Marsden found there was no undue influence.

Mr Harper’s case has now been taken up by Councillor Angela Vithoulkas, who says the matter must be revisited.

“It is entirely appropriate to have this matter looked into with fresh eyes by a professional auditor,” said Ms Vithoulkas this week.

Ms Vithoulkas said it seemed “unusual” that O’Connor Marsden did not interview anyone from the City’s planning department or the Lord Mayor’s office during its investigation.

Last month, Ms Vithoulkas raised separate concerns about O’Connor Marsden, questioning whether the company’s investigations were adequate. She pointed out that O’Connor Marsden cleared former NSW Mining Minister Ian Macdonald over the granting of a controversial coal mining license, which was later found to be corrupt.

A probity report by commercial law firm Clayton Utz found O’Connor Marsden had failed to carry out “a robust investigation”.

A spokesperson for the Lord Mayor this week stood by O’Connor Marsden, insisting: “The City is satisfied with the quality of the work undertaken by O’Connor Marsden.”

But the spokesperson admitted Mr Harper’s alleged objection to the Bourke St cycleway had nothing to do with his DA and should not have been noted.

“The line was irrelevant and shouldn’t have been included in the briefing note. Staff in the Lord Mayor’s office have been instructed to only include relevant information in briefing notes.”

Mr Harper alleged the Lord Mayor was corrupt.

“I believe Clover Moore is unprofessional and corrupt. I believe she sought to settle a score through the assessment of my DA,” said Mr Harper, who advised he was preparing submissions to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

Mr Harper added that he was never against the Bourke St cycleway and had only objected to the planned removal of several trees.

O’Connor Marsden did not respond to requests for comment.

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