Crown extension denied

Minister for Planning Richard Wynne has knocked back Crown and Schiavello’s request for an extension of time to begin construction on their billion-dollar mega tower One Queensbridge.

Approved in March 2017 by the State Government under the special planning exemption of being a state significant project, a condition of its planning scheme amendment was that construction had to have begun within two years of gazettal.

Having formally written to Minister for Planning Richard Wynne requesting more time to start construction last month, Crown Resorts confirmed via a statement on its website on March 4 that its request had been denied.

“Crown and Schiavello have been informally notified by the Victorian Government that an extension to the construction commencement date for the project has been denied,” the statement read. “No formal notice has been received from the Victorian Government but it is expected shortly.”

“As previously announced, the project was subject to obtaining financing arrangements that were satisfactory to Crown and Schiavello. Unfortunately, these arrangements could not be achieved before the construction commencement date under the planning approval.”

“Crown retains a 50 per cent ownership interest in the land and will consider the next steps for the property in conjunction with Schiavello.”

The decision represents a huge setback to the joint venture partners, who will now require fresh planning approvals for the project should they wish to continue.

The site, which is home to the historic Queensbridge Hotel, has since been protected with a heritage overlay following a heritage review of Southbank by the City of Melbourne in 2018. This means that any future development proposal for the site will now need to incorporate this as part of its design.

Approved at 323 metres, One Queensbridge would have become Australia’s tallest tower and provided 708 new apartments and a new 6-star, 388-room hotel. While the joint venture partners can still pursue the project in its current form, obtaining the same exemptions for such a proposal would appear to be a much more difficult task.

A raft of public works that included upgrades to Queensbridge Square, Southbank Promenade and Sandridge Bridge, were also tied up as part of the approval, now leaving the City of Melbourne with the challenge of delivering on its own.

A spokesperson for Richard Wynne told Southbank Local News: “Crown sought an extension of time for their commencement of works, but under the relevant planning laws there was insufficient justification for that request. Crown is able to seek new planning approval and that will be considered on its merits.”

Council’s chair of planning Cr Nicholas Reece welcomed the decision and said he hoped the developers’ next proposal would adhere to the normal planning process.

“One Queensbridge did not come within a bull’s roar of complying with the Melbourne Planning Scheme and I hope they reflect on that the next time they submit,” he said.

“That said, I very much hope that Crown and Schiavello find a way forward because the city would benefit from the investment and world-class tourism facilities that Crown has a history of building in Melbourne.”

Assistant chair of planning Cr Rohan Leppert congratulated Minister Wynne for the decision and said that it went some way to restoring faith and transparency back into the planning process.

Southbank Residents’ Association (SRA) president Tony Penna said SRA welcomed the decision and said he looked forward to seeing the government consult council on any future proposals for the site.

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