Crown’s jewel mired in legal action over million dollar views

Crown Resorts has launched legal action against the NSW government to stop a development which could limit views from its luxury hotel at Barangaroo on the Sydney Harbour foreshore.

Billionaire James Packer’s company launched a Supreme Court action against the government-appointed Barangaroo Delivery Authority this week after parties failed to reach agreement over the proposed heights of buildings on the Central Barangaroo project.

Crown argues new buildings planned for the site, which is adjacent to its development, threaten revenue due to a loss of sight lines across the harbour and to the Sydney Opera House.

Executive chairman John Alexander said Central Barangaroo, a five-hectare site designated as largely for public use and with a mix of commercial and residential building and a metro station, was originally intended to be “low density, low rise”.

Now the casino and hotel group fears building heights threaten to block views from the lower floors of a hotel proposed for levels 6 to 22 of its 71-level skyscraper Crown Tower.

The storm began brewing when the state government agreed in 2015 to build a metro station at Barangaroo Central and signalled it would allow a trebling of the amount of floor space that could be developed in the area.

The Barangaroo Development Authority has been wrangling with Crown and Lendlease over sight lines in the 28 months since.

Barangaroo Central has been mired in controversy since its inception, with accusations that Liberal and Labour state politicians have acquiesced to the wishes of moneyed developers and former Paul Keating has driven his personal vision for the site at the expense of its original concept.

Architect Philip Thalis, part of the team that won the initial design competition and was promptly sacked from its development, said: “Barangaroo is a demonstration of everything that is wrong in contemporary Australian city-making.

“Rampant privatisation, the weaknesses of the planning system and the failure of public authorities, our governments, to clearly understand what the public interest is.”

Developer Lendlease, which is building high-rise apartments in the same area as Crown, has also launched legal action against the NSW government, seeking an injunction to stop release of a revised plan for Central Barangaroo.

The lawsuits come after more than two years of negotiations, Lendlease saying legal proceedings were “never our preferred course of action and we remain hopeful of reaching an agreement with the Barangaroo Delivery Authority”.

Chris Johnson of Urban Taskforce, an industry organisation representing property development interests in the city, said investors were concerned legal action could result in costly delays for Barangaroo.  

“It would be a very backward move if the central section redevelopment grinds to a halt for the next few years while legal battles occur,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“The NSW government must provide leadership to ensure the parties can agree on a way forward.”

NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian says she had “full confidence” in the authority’s ability negotiate on behalf of the government and “protect the public interest”.

Barangaroo Central is due for completion in 2024.

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