Mansion demolition appeal set

The unfinished mansion in Peppermint Grove.
The unfinished mansion in Peppermint Grove.

�I�m very conscious of the timing to get some sort of decision out of this by Christmas,� SAT senior member Maurice Spillane said.

At a third directions hearing last Tuesday, Mr Spillane ordered the council and Mrs Oswal�s lawyers to have a mediation session on September 1.

Failing mediation, their evidence for a full hearing from November 9-11 must be in by October 16 and responses to the evidence finished by October 30.

The Council declared the mansion uninhabitable last December, after construction at the 6000sqm Bayview Terrace site halted in 2011 and the Oswals left Australia.

The mediation session may discuss the council�s lawyers contention they need evidence of what engineering and financial issues affect Mrs Oswal�s proposal to renovate and then complete the mansion.

Mrs Oswal�s lawyers argue the work may not be started until the outcome of a separate Victorian court proceeding, about allegedly owed taxes, that could place the building in Australian Tax Office�s ownership.

Mr Spillane said mediation and any hearing could be held at the mansion but he did not want a �circus�.

Mrs Oswal may still be subject to an order preventing her from leaving Australia if she travels from the Middle East, and her appearance at the mediation or hearing may be by video or phone.

�The tribunal would not be concerned she departs, only that she arrives,� Mr Spillane said.

Mrs Oswal�s lawyer Julius Skinner said whether his client needs to be at the hearing could be discussed at mediation, and the Dubai-listed company Mercury Services Ltd which holds the mortgage over the mansion had indicated it may join the proceedings.

Council lawyer Digby Robinson said the success of mediation now depended on what was presented by Mrs Oswal�s lawyers, who had the onus on showing what benefit there would be not going to a full hearing.