The state government has been accused of ignoring council concerns about the condition of the old Balmain Leagues Club after it went up in flames over the weekend.
Most important points:
- Police are treating the fire at the old Balmain Club grounds as suspicious
- Inner West Council mayor calls for site to be demolished immediately
- Several plans to develop the site have been shelved
Mayor of the Inner West Council, Darcy Byrne, said it was time to resolve the decade-long dispute.
“We’ve known for two years that this is a serious fire hazard,” he said.
“We have made it clear to the government publicly and privately that this building really needs to be demolished, and it is time for the Prime Minister and the Minister for Transport to act.
“This eyesore needs to be broken down now, today, not next week or next month.”
The abandoned club in Rozelle, a western Sydney suburb, was set on fire on Saturday in an incident that police consider “suspicious”.
“Witnesses came forward yesterday and said they saw two young men between the ages of 16 and 18 running away shortly after the fire started,” said Detective Inspector Darrin Laing of the Leichhardt Police Area Command.
“They had backpacks on, they ran across Victoria Road to the Iron Cove Bridge.”
The police searched extensively in the park along the waterfront, but were unable to locate the boys.
The incident is charged with arson or intentional fire damage, Inspector Laing said.
The fate of the iconic club has been at the center of a long-running debate since the venue was closed in 2010 to a subway station that never came.
The site which lies at Victoria Road, Darling Street and Waterloo Street in Rozelle has been labeled an eyesore by locals and the target of vandals.
Several development plans have been shelved over the years, with the most recent $400 million proposal being approved and subsequently halted after Transport for NSW (TfNSW) filed to acquire the site as part of the construction of the Western Harbor Tunnel- project.
Developers Heworth said the redevelopment – which would include a rebuild of the club and 167 residential apartments – would be delayed for another seven years.
While Mr Byrne compared it to “a small mine in the middle of Rozelle”.
A company spokesperson said they had organized additional security at the site after the incident, but had previously raised concerns with TfNSW.
“Heworth wrote to TfNSW in March advising that the site should be secured by Transport to prevent the public from entering,” they said.
“Heworth has not yet received a response.”
They also said they were still “pending an offer of compensation” following a valuation report from the NSW Valuer General.
Transport for NSW said in a statement that they supported all measures taken by the previous owners to ensure the site was “safe” for emergency services.
Inspector Laing said the site had been declared safe and the crime scene police were investigating.
Earlier on Sunday, NSW Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet said there had been many challenges to rebuild the club, but it was time for action.
“We have to work on it. It’s been sitting there for such a long time, sleeping, and we have to make decisions,” he said.
“And I have raised that with the planning minister, but we need to work closely with the municipality, in agreement with the local community, to ensure that the leagues club is properly developed.”
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact Glebe Police Station or Crime Stoppers at 1800 333 000.
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