THE looming legal stoush over plans to build a function centre and kiosk on the former Newcastle Bowling Club site may prove a test case for the future use of public recreational land around the state.
In a three-day hearing scheduled in the NSW Land and Environment Court next month, the Friends of King Edward Park Group will challenge Newcastle City Council's approval in 2011 of developer Keith Stronach's plans for a function centre, restaurant and kiosk on the cliff-top site at King Edward headland.
Jacquie Svenson, a solicitor and teacher at the University of Newcastle's Legal Centre, which is acting pro-bono for the group, said yesterday their case had "strong prospects" due to a "shopping list of errors" made by council in approving the development.
The group has expressed concern over moves late last year by the O'Farrell government to push through Parliament various amendments to the Crown Lands Act that would allow Crown land to be used for other purposes beyond public use.
Ms Svenson said if the group overturned the Stronach development, it would provide the court "guidance and some binding precedents" about interpreting the act in terms of protecting public land.
She said the group's case against the development would centre on challenging the validity of the plan of management for the site, arguing the function centre and kiosk were not consistent for its purpose of public recreation under the Crown Lands Act.
She said the group would argue council made a number of errors in granting consent, with many relating to a pathway that lay partly on land deemed of significance to Aboriginal people.
Yesterday, Mr Stronach said his development would be a far greater community asset than previously.
"It will have a function centre anyone can book, a cafe and restaurant that is open to the public and fully accessible - a lot more so than when it was a bowling club, when only members could go," he said.