Artist impression of the Crown Towers hotel concept.

In 1991, former Labor Gaming Minister Pam Beggs refused to approve a proposal by the owners of the Burswood Casino to build a third hotel, residential condominiums and office towers on the basis that she was not empowered to do so under the Act of Parliament that established the development of the casino.

A lawyer for residents of luxury apartments at Burswood has told the Supreme Court that Ms Beggs’ decision was a relevant fact in their battle to prevent James Packer’s Crown Limited from building a new, six-star hotel at Burswood unless it goes through the State’s ordinary planning processes.

Residents sue over casino hotel

The argument was mounted on the first day of a three-day trial in which the 105 residents of Mirvac’s Burswood Peninsula development are seeking to have Gaming Minister Terry Waldron’s planning approval of Crown’s plans declared invalid and thrown out.

The case hinges on the interpretation of the Casino (Burswood Island) Agreement Act, the original State agreement passed by the Burke Government in 1985 that facilitated the development of the casino complex.

The Barnett Government relied on provisions in the Act, which has been modified several times by Parliament over the years, to sidestep the State’s usual public town planning process. Instead, Racing and Gaming Minister Terry Waldron alone issued planning approval for the hotel.

The residents argue Mr Waldron’s approval is invalid and fear the new hotel, which could have back-of-house service areas as close as 60m from their homes, will have a negative impact, including blocking city views.

Lawyer for the residents Doug Solomon told the Supreme Court the original casino agreement contemplated only two stages, the second of which was completed when the Holiday Inn – now known as Crown Promenade – was completed in 2005.

Mr Solomon said that in 1991, Ms Beggs was approached by the casino’s owners Perpetual Trustees to approve a third stage of development which included a third hotel, condominiums and office towers.

However, she rejected the plan, saying it was not contemplated when the State agreement was negotiated and ratified by Parliament.

“The Parliament in ratifying the State agreement, was not empowering me to consent to development of the type and scope proposed,” Ms Beggs said in rejecting the plan.

Mr Solomon told the court: “We say that what occurred in 1991 is a relevant background fact.”

Justice Andrew Beech said that if the residents’ argument succeeded, the development “cannot be sustained by an approval given by the Minister”, meaning the hotel project would halt until regular planning approvals were secured.

The trial continues on Thursday.

The West Australian

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