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Crown’s Queensbridge extension rejected

Mon, Mar 4, 9:17am by Staff Writer

Victoria’s Planning Minister Richard Wynne has refused to grant James Packer’s Crown Resorts an extension to build Australia’s tallest tower.

The planned $1.75 billion Southbank development will now need to obtain a new planning approval for the Queensbridge luxury hotel and apartment complex if they wish to proceed with their plans.

Mr Wynne granted the $1.75 billion development in March 2017, despite staunch opposition from Melbourne City Council.

The permit expired on Sunday 3 March, 2019 and gave Crown Resorts and partner Schiavello two years to commence construction.

A spokeswoman for Mr Wynne said the minister had refused the request for an extension of time on the basis of insufficient reasons were provided to justify this.

“The two year commencement time frame was a requirement in the approval given to Crown in 2017,” she said.

“The reasons for not meeting this condition and next steps are a matter for the proponent,” the spokeswoman said.

The original approval was gazetted with the condition that the development must commence within two years.

The request to extend the time frame is separate to the original application and therefore new reasons for the extension were required to approve the request, according to The Age.

A Crown spokesperson said its planning consultant advised it on Friday evening that it could expect a formal decision on Monday.

The One Queensbridge tower would be 323 metres tall and become the tallest building in Melbourne, eclipsing the Eureka Tower by 26 metres.

Among the buildings earmarked for demolition are an historic pub, which have sat dormant since the announcement, with rumours swirling that neither Crown nor

Schiavello are prepared to risk the enormous construction costs.

The plan was originally approved just as Melbourne’s apartment market was cooling after an explosive few years.

The tower was expected to feature 708 apartments and a 388-room hotel.

Tower approved in 2017

The tower was approved by Mr Wynne in 2017 without public notice, despite strong opposition from Melbourne City Council.

In the lead-up to Premier Daniel Andrews’ successful 2014 state election campaign, Crown Casino founder Lloyd Williams was caught on camera telling the then opposition leader that Mr Packer would do everything he could for Labor.

“You should probably know that I am the executor of the Packer estate, and James is going to kick every goal he can for you,” Mr Williams said.

Crown is one of corporate Australia’s biggest political donors.

Disclosures released last week by the Australian Electoral Commission for the 2017-

18 financial year reveal that it gave the Labor and Liberal Parties A$180.638.

In Victoria, it handed Labor A$35,000 and the Liberal Party A$30,000 that year.

Former chair of finance at Melbourne City Council Stephen Mayne said it was a disgrace Crown’s tower was ever approved.

Mr Mayne is now an anti-gambling campaigner and said: “it was a dark day for planning in Victoria and it should now not be renewed in any way, shape or form – it was worse than anything ‘Mr Skyscraper’ Matthew Guy did [as planning minister], because it was a corporate sweetheart deal negotiated personally between James Packer and Daniel Andrews.”

Mr Wynne alleges that Mr Wynne had personally not liked the tower plan, but approved it out of Cabinet solidarity.

“Dick Wynne always hated this, and the Premier should now let Dick Wynne cancel it,” he said.

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