Land claim over hotel site

The sliver of contested land is hidden under the ailing conifers. Photo by Steve Grant.

A CLAIM over a sliver of land behind an old limestone wall is threatening to hold up a $24 million hotel development in the centre of Fremantle.

Yolk Property Group got approval to build the six-storey, 100-room hotel, office and retail development on the corner of South Terrace and Suffolk Street in 2021, but the strata council of the neighbouring Arundel Court flats has now claimed “adverse possession” over a thin wedge at the rear of the site.

The wedge is within Yolk’s title, but it sits behind a retaining wall and is home to a couple of ailing conifers that hang over the unusable upper story of the flats’ car park.

To claim adverse possession, which would see title of the sliver handed over to Arundel Court owners, they’d have to prove they’d occupied the land for at least 12 years without their neighbour’s consent.

Strata manager Leila Dethridge said Arundel’s council of owners believed they had a strong claim.

“The council of owners advise the decision to pursue this claim was resolved upon at the strata company’s annual general meeting without dissent and on the basis the owners have a very strong claim given the location of a longstanding limestone wall on the developer’s land and the owner’s control and use of the land on the owner’s side of that wall over some decades,” Ms Dethridge said.

“The owners have advised the developer of their claim for adverse possession and invited negotiation.

“The developers of the neighbouring site has agreed to meet with the council of owners.

“Naturally, the council of owners hope for a mutually beneficial resolution of the dispute without the need 

for litigation. Any further comment at this time would be premature.”

The Herald has spoken to several owners, and while one was keen for the claim to be pursued, two others were concerned their strata fees could be sucked up by legal costs with no guarantee of success.

One questioned why the claim had only come after the hotel was approved by a state government development panel and not in the preceding years; council of owners member Neil Foley had spoken against the development when it was before the panel.

The owner was also concerned the decision was made without many of the flats’ owners being aware; the Herald understands the council only just managed to reach a quorum at the AGM where the decision was made. He’s now trying to force a special meeting of owners, but said the committee was not responding.

Fremantle’s long-standing blogger Roel Loopers, who broke the story, lives on the fourth floor of Arundel Court, and while he’s a renter himself, he’s labelled the claim “unethical and fanciful”.

Mr Loopers said it was only in the last couple of weeks – since the claim was made – that a hose had suddenly appeared near the contested land to make it look as though the conifers were being maintained.

He’s keen to see the hotel built, as the currently vacant block has been something of a rubbish tip since hoarding went up around the sides.

The Herald reached out to Yolk but was unable to get a comment.

by STEVE GRANT

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