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Article courtesy of Sydney Morning Herald - By Alex Mitchell
January 30, 2011

THE billionaire property developer Bob Ell is suing a Greens councillor for defamation.

Katie Milne, who topped the poll for a place on Tweed Shire Council in 2008, is a vocal opponent of a proposal by Mr Ell's company, Leda Holdings, to build two "mini-cities" in the area.

She has retained the Sydney barrister Tom Molomby, SC, a former member of the ABC board, to contest the action in a case listed for the NSW Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Mr Ell's seven-page statement of claim, filed by Stacks Law Firm on December 15, seeks damages including aggravated damages, plus costs, for a letter to the editor that Cr Milne emailed to media outlets last March.

Mr Ell, the founder of the privately held Leda group, told The Sun-Herald his legal action was not an attempt to silence Cr Milne.

“My lawyers entered protracted negotiations to seek a public apology and court action was only started when this failed,” he said.

At the end of last year, the NSW Planning Minister, Tony Kelly, visited the Tweed Shire twice to announce approval for large-scale Leda developments – 4500 homes on an 860-hectare site known as Kings Forest and 5500 homes at the Cobaki Lakes project on the NSW-Queensland border.

The final approval for residential development came after years of negotiation with the government and Tweed Shire Council.

Cr Milne is the second Greens councillor to be sued by Mr Ell. In 2005 he took defamation proceedings against Henry James, who was defended pro bono by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.

The action was discontinued after six months when both sides agreed not to pursue claims for costs.

Cr Milne said that she would continue to take part in council debates on the Kings Forest and Cobaki projects.

“Where an item involves any application by Mr Ell, I will be voting on the merits of each application."

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