Lawyers 'left out' of new courthouse talks

NEWCASTLE’S legal community was ‘‘left out’’ of consultation on the city’s new $94million courthouse, Newcastle Bar Association president Peter Harper said yesterday.

Mr Harper released a statement saying the Bar Association had raised a number of concerns with the Department of Attorney-General and Justice at a stakeholders meeting in October last year.

A development application has been lodged, but no one from the legal community has seen detailed plans.

‘‘We are concerned that a [development application] has been submitted in the absence of any further consultation,’’ Mr Harper said.

‘‘It appears that having voiced our concern, we have now been left out of the consultative process. At face value, there appears to be a complete lack of community consultation.’’

At the meeting in October, Mr Harper said members of the legal community ‘‘unanimously’’ raised concern about site selection and a lack of available space for justice groups like legal aid and prosecutors.

‘‘The [department] then indicated that we would be invited to another meeting as stakeholders once the plans were drawn,’’ Mr Harper said.

A spokesman for Attorney-General Greg Smith said yesterday internal planning in individual spaces within the court complex had not been finalised.

‘‘There is also work to do on the design to ensure we have the right spaces to meet the needs of the court and court users,’’ the spokesman said.

‘‘There will be ongoing consultation about this and the bar will be included in this process.’’

Newcastle MP Tim Owen said he made representations to Mr Smith on behalf of the legal community.

A lack of parking at the new courthouse has also created concern among community members. The current courthouse does not provide public parking, but Newcastle City Council modelling shows the Civic precinct nearing capacity.

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