Crown Resort's controversial $2.2 billion Sydney hotel and casino will retain uninterrupted harbour views, with the Supreme Court handing down its long-awaited decision on Friday.
The ruling by Justice McDougall found that the NSW government’s Barangaroo Delivery Authority had breached its development agreement by negotiating with bidders for the development of the final stage of Barangaroo Central without consulting with Crown and Lendlease.
Described as the “most characteristic of Sydney fixations”, the fight for harbour views – a dispute over sight lines clauses – was at the heart of the fray between James Packer’s Crown Resorts, Lendlease and the authority.
The authority’s obligations under the sight lines clauses were triggered when the authority selected the Grocon consortium as the preferred bidder, “at the very latest”, the judgment read.
Grocon, backed by Aqualand and Scentre Group, was named the preferred bidder in mid-2016, culminating in the signing of a development agreement between the consortium and the authority in late 2017.
The authority originally issued a request for development bids in October 2014, with Grocon flagging its interest in the 5.2-hectare site in 2015.
Crown argued that the operation of the sight lines clauses in its contract with the authority was triggered, if not by Grocon’s initial bid, then by its subsequent bids.
Justice McDougall agreed: “The authority had considered various bids to develop Central Barangaroo without first discussing and negotiating, with Crown and Lendlease, ways to retain the sight lines that the Crown and Lendlease buildings would otherwise enjoy to the Harbour Bridge and Opera House,” a summary of the judgment said.
The dispute arose after the government increased the size of Barangaroo central – nearly trebling the amount of floor space – to offset the addition of a Metro train station to the area.
The building heights at Grocon’s $5 billion precinct significantly exceeded the limits put forward by the authority when Crown and Lendlease finalised their development plan in 2016.
The court also found that the government failed to engage in good faith negotiations with Crown and Lendlease, precluding them from putting forward a case as to how the development of Central Barangaroo should proceed.
A decision on damages has been postponed until a later hearing.