Kings Forest developer denies threat over hospital
AN EXPLOSIVE letter sent by billionaire Kings Forest developer Bob Ell to the NSW Nationals warning they would lose the state election if Tweed Valley Hospital was not placed on his site was "not intended as a threat”, Leda Holdings claims.
In the letter obtained on Tuesday, the high-profile property developer told NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Health Minister Brad Hazzard he would not begin development on 4500 lots of homes unless the hospital was relocated from Cudgen to Kings Forest.
"Without a decision to locate the hospital at Kings Forest, I will not be commencing residential development,” he stated.
"Were it to be chosen as the hospital location, however, the site can be delivered with the firm commitments we made in our submission to Health.”
Mr Ell also stated moving the site would generate "good publicity” politically and "enhance the prospect of the Tweed being retained in March”.
"Maintaining the current decision can only be expected to have the opposite effects,” he wrote.
But Leda Holdings spokesperson Reg Van Rij told the Tweed Daily News the letter was not a threat and was "sent to the minister in a polite tone”.
"It was designed to express Mr Ell's business position - A, that our site is actually the better site, and B, in light of the direction we see in the current housing market, he does not have sufficient confidence to invest the $100 million-plus that is required to put both Cobaki and Kings Forest on the market, because the market's ability to absorb that new supply, in the present climate, is in doubt,” he said.
"All that has been decided is he is not going to go ahead with Kings Forest but in the alternative, if the hospital came there, that would give sufficient strength to make Kings Forest the priority. It wasn't in any way intended as a threat.”
Mr Rij said he had sent a letter to Tweed Shire Council general manager Troy Green assuring him the Kings Forest development would still be going ahead in the near future.
"Council knows well how long Leda has been attempting to get the necessary approvals from the state to enable Kings Forest to commence,” he said.
"We are at last near the end of this process so it will soon be able to proceed.”
Mr Rij said if it was not for planning obstacles, the Kings Forest development could have started "two or three years ago” when market conditions were strong.
"Now, however, market conditions have turned and signalled that carefully considered development investment decisions are required,” he said.
"The Leda board has concluded that without the underpinning of the hospital coming to Kings, it would not in the present climate be prudent to commit the $100 million-plus required to create the first of Cobaki's 5500 lot and of the 4500 at Kings.
"However if a hospital was to be relocated to Kings Forest, the board will give the project priority and guarantee the fully serviced site will be delivered within the required time frame for construction of the hospital to commence.”