Land and Environment Court rejects latest plans to redevelop the former Balmain Leagues Club Site

SEPTEMBER 28 2016 – 8:19PM

Kim Arlington

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The old Balmain Leagues Club is a notorious eyesore on one of the city’s busiest roads – and it could stay that way for years as wrangling continues over the fate of the derelict site.

Its owner and would-be developer, Rozelle Village, wanted to build 12- and eight-storey residential towers on the Victoria Road site, plus shops and space for a new leagues club.

The fate of the former Balmain Leagues Club on Victoria Road is in limbo after a court refused the latest development ...
The fate of the former Balmain Leagues Club on Victoria Road is in limbo after a court refused the latest development application. Photo: Peter Rae

But the development application was refused on Wednesday by the Land and Environment Court, which ruled it did not meet the objectives of the local environment plan for the precinct.

As well as potentially worsening traffic on a congested arterial road, the proposal raised “doubts about the area to be provided for use by the Balmain Leagues Club to promote its long term viability”, Commissioner Annelise Tuor said.

The old Balmain Leagues Club is a "blight on the community", says Tigers chairman Leslie Glen.
The old Balmain Leagues Club is a “blight on the community”, says Tigers chairman Leslie Glen. Photo: Peter Rae

She also said the design “does not demonstrate that it will contribute to the vibrancy and prosperity of the Rozelle Commercial Centre”.

It is the latest chapter in the long-running dispute about the scale of development at the prime inner-city site, which has become a vandalised ruin in the years since it was vacated by the Tigers.

The club was forced out amid plans by the then Labor government to build a metro station and in 2009 sold its headquarters for $1 to Rozelle Village, which took on its $23.5 million debt.

The club is keen to return to its traditional home but since 2010 the NSW government has refused four proposals to redevelop the site. The application knocked back on Wednesday included plans for 135 apartments, a supermarket, public plaza and club premises.

The would-be developer of the old Balmain Leagues Club site says it is "unique in the inner west".
The would-be developer of the old Balmain Leagues Club site says it is “unique in the inner west”. Photo: Peter Rae

Tigers chairman Leslie Glen said the court decision was disappointing “for our very long-suffering members and people who rely on our club for social and sporting amenity”.

Without a stable home base the club was battling to survive financially and to continue its support for the community and local sporting organisations, Dr Glen said.

“It’s just been frustration after frustration,” he said. “The best thing for our club would be for the development to be approved and have us return to the site.”

The old club building had “fallen into a terrible state”, he added. “It’s a blight on the community, but it seems that there isn’t a will to get something that will satisfy everybody’s wishes.”

The member for Balmain, Jamie Parker, said it was disappointing that the court’s decision meant a further delay to the return of the Balmain Leagues Club, but it “marks a significant win for the community”.

“This decision should send a strong message to the developer that Rozelle doesn’t need skyscrapers but needs sensible development,” he said.

The former mayor of Leichhardt, Darcy Byrne, said Leichhardt Council had in 2015 unanimously approved a redevelopment of six and eight storey buildings on the site, including rent-free space for the club.

“The only way for the development to proceed on the site is for Rozelle Village to give up on their grandiose plans and make use of the existing council approval,” Mr Byrne said. “Having repeatedly failed to build on this site and deliver the new leagues club which members were promised, I call on Rozelle Village to accept reality or sell the site so progress can be made.”

Rozelle Village’s Ian Wright said the Leichhardt local environment plan for the site “was gazetted back in 2008 [and] is not relevant to today’s conditions”. He said it needed a review, especially given Sydney’s growing demand for residential space and with the WestConnex motorway set to change traffic flows.

“I think building something that’s six to eight storeys would be a big missed opportunity for this site,” he said. “It’s unique in the inner west. It’s on a ridge, it’s on a main transport thoroughfare, so it does lend itself to higher density.”

Mr Wright said he would assess what the new Inner West Council – formed through the merger of Leichhardt, Ashfield and Marrickville councils – planned for the site. But he said that by the time another development was applied for, approved and constructed, it could be five or six years before the leagues club returned to its Victoria Road home.

Interim General Manager of the Inner West Council, Rik Hart, said the club still owed $11 million to the site’s owner and that council had tendered court documents raising concerns about the Tigers’ ability to lease premises at the redeveloped site given its financial position.

“Council fought for the Tigers to be offered a home at an affordable rent, however the developer insisted on holding them to a commercial lease with a lower floor space than was permitted by the planning controls,” he said. “The developer has constantly attempted to make council responsible for the future of the leagues club. However, when it came down to it, they did not provide the required security for the club.”

Source : Sydney Morning Herald

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