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After nearly two years, a David and Goliath struggle between a group of close to 20 Footscray homeowners and the Department of Transport is over.
The residents, who in 2010 discovered their homes sat in the path of the new Regional Rail Link project, have each received six-figure sums in compensation for the compulsory acquisition of their homes.
Slater and Gordon commercial litigation lawyer Ben Hardwick said the Buckley St residents had received significantly more than the Department’s initial offer.
“Not only did we negotiate the value of the property that had been acquired, but also compensation for non-financial loss such as the emotional and stressful upheaval caused by these acquisitions,” Mr Hardwick said.
Slater and Gordon took up the fight on behalf of the residents, including Alison Ross, who said she was happy the ordeal had come to an end.
“Not only was it our home, it was an art studio and a creative work environment for me and two other owners,’’ Ms Ross said.
“We had barely finished nine months worth of renovations when we found out the property was to be acquired.”
She said the trio could now move on with their lives.
“It was a very emotional time because we'd had big plans for the property and our future there. Owning a house in Footscray was exciting because of the growing creative communities in that area and it was very hard to lose that,’’ Ms Ross said.
“Slater and Gordon were able to help us through the whole process.”
“I think it’s fair to say we’re all keen to put this whole ordeal behind us.”
Mr Hardwick said almost all of the residents’ claims had been resolved through negotiation with the Department of Transport, with many of his clients having already purchased replacement properties.
“It is important for homeowners and businesses to know that they don't need to go through this process alone. They are entitled to have lawyers to assist and it was our job to guide them through the process and ensure they receive the maximum possible amount of compensation for their property,” Mr Hardwick said.
“We liaised with property valuers, prepared submissions to Government, assisted with the purchase of replacement properties, and ensured out of pocket expenses were covered,” he said.
Mr Hardwick said that the compulsory acquisition, which many of the residents found out about in media reports, had taken his clients by surprise.
“Sometimes, landowners don’t realise that they have rights when dealing with government authorities over compulsory acquisitions,’’ he said.
“They also don’t realise that the resuming authority is required to pay the legal costs associated with the acquisition, which means the landowner is not left out of pocket through the process.” he said.
Compulsory land acquisitions are made under the Land Acquisition and Compensation Act 1986. An objective of the Act is to ensure that fair compensation is paid to affected parties when their land is compulsorily acquired.