Council laments Crown delay

Sean Car

The City of Melbourne’s planning chair Cr Nicholas Reece says there is only so long the council can tolerate Crown Resorts and Schiavello’s delay in upgrading Queensbridge Square.

His comments come after Crown Resorts released its annual report last month, which reveals its six-star hotel and residential development One Queensbridge still remains subject to financing.

The company, along with joint-venture partner Schiavello, received approval for what would be Australia’s tallest tower from the state government in March 2017 as a project of “state significance”.

Given exemption from the normal planning process under planning scheme Amendment C310, Crown and Schiavello’s promised delivery of a $100 million “public benefits package” was what helped get the controversial project over the line.

The package contained long-awaited upgrades to Queensbridge Square, Sandridge Bridge and Southbank Promenade – works all previously flagged by the City of Melbourne.

“There is only so long the City of Melbourne can tolerate a delay to the upgrade of Queensbridge Square,” Cr Reece told Southbank Local News. “We think the size of this development is inappropriate and we’re disappointed that works to Queensbridge Square are being held up.”

“The upgrade of Queensbridge Square is an important part of the rejuvenation of Southbank. Given this is one of the most densely-populated parts of the city, we are keen to get on with these works.”

Conditions in Amendment C310 state that the developer must start construction within two years from the date of the project’s gazettal. It also says the development must be completed within five years.

With the March 2, 2019 deadline looming, it is now all but certain that Crown will need to request an extension from the state government.

Given the delay, Southbank Local News asked Crown Resorts if it would be willing to commit to delivering the upgrades to Queensbridge Square and Southbank Promenade ahead of starting construction, to which it replied: “Crown remains very supportive of the project and the start of the project is related to Crown finalising the project financing and various agreements as disclosed in our full year results.”

The council’s deputy planning chair Cr Rohan Leppert said both major parties should rule out a post-election approval of a time extension unless they were willing to engage the public in the process.

“The onus is on Crown/Schiavello to request another planning scheme amendment to extend the expiry date in the incorporated document if that’s what they want to do.”

“The cynic in me suspects that Crown will wait until immediately after the state election to request an extension.”

“Given how important an issue this is, Crown’s intentions should be made clear and Minister Wynne and Shadow Minister Davis should both be ruling out any post-election approval of a time extension hidden from public scrutiny.”

Former City of Melbourne councillor and Alliance for Gambling Reform member Stephen Mayne said an extension would give the government power to negotiate changes to Crown and Schiavello’s amendment.

The owners’ corporations at neighbouring Freshwater Place and Prima Pearl have both previously expressed concerns over the tower’s bulk, height and setbacks.

Having previously labelled the project an “unmitigated disaster”, Labor Member for Albert Park Martin Foley wouldn’t commit to negotiating for such changes with his cabinet colleagues, but said that he stood by his previous comments.

“I have expressed my concerns about the impact of this development previously. I stand by those comments,” he said.

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