Proposed Ritz-Carlton Sky lobby. Concept image only, subject to all approvals. Credit: The Star

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By VANESSA LIM

The NSW Department of Planning has advised the Independent Planning Commission to reject the Ritz Carlton development proposal as it was inconsistent with the character of Pyrmont.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore of the City of Sydney explained that Pyrmont was now one of Sydney’s most liveable suburbs. “This proposal has threatened Pyrmont’s hard-fought liveability since submitted outside of current planning controls, using the infamous Part 3A of the Planning Act, a discredited piece of legislation designed to override community concerns.”

“The City commends the Department of Planning’s recommendation not to approve the Star Casino’s Ritz Carlton luxury apartments and hotel, and we urge the Independent Planning Commission to uphold the Department’s expert advice.”

While the City of Sydney maintained that they would be against the Ritz Carlton, The Star Entertainment Group said the public backlash to the Ritz Carlton was minimal.

“Around 5000 people came through our display centre during the public exhibition period late last year. That was on top of two previous community consultation programs.

“In total the Department received 83 objections from the public. Well below other major projects”.

Star’s hotel versus Crown’s casino?

Height restrictions on the local Pyrmont area were also of issue.  Lord Mayor Clover Moore said, “This massive tower would be eight times the height allowed under existing rules, cause significant overshadowing of public spaces and obstruct views of residents in existing buildings.”

In the NSW Department of Planning report, the over 60-storey hotel would also obstruct the skyline of Pyrmont with some calling it an eyesore.

A spokesperson from The Star countered that it wouldn’t be an eyesore and was designed by Peter Poulet, the NSW government architect at the time and an internationally-acclaimed architect.

Analysts have also suggested that the Ritz Carlton hotel was a crucial part of The Star’s plans to draw tourists away from the Crown’s luxury casino and hotel.

Despite the recommended rejection by the NSW Department of Planning, The Star Entertainment Group will continue to seek approval for their 220 room Ritz Carlton Hotel development, worth $530 million. The Star Entertainment Group lodged the proposal to the NSW Department of Planning last year, a decade after two Carlton-Ritz hotels closed.

A spokesperson for The Star said, “We’re extremely disappointed with the recommendation.” The Star argued that hotels such as the Carlton Ritz could bring in tourism. “Sydney needs hotels. Sydney needs new and refreshed tourism infrastructure or risk losing international visitors to other states, other countries.

“We want to spend half a billion dollars on helping NSW increase its appeal to the inbound visitor market. The Star will always continue to support tourism. For now, we will take time to review the report and the Department’s position, and consider the avenues and other opportunities available to us.”

The Star’s spokesperson said the Carlton Ritz hotel would feature no additional gaming facilities and could be a positive experience for both locals and tourists. “It does include a multi-level community centre for the people of Pyrmont, a six-star hotel brand that resonates globally and extensive F&B offerings that will deliver Sydney a unique dining precinct for locals and tourists.”

Lord Mayor Clover Moore acknowledged that there were benefits to increase hotels in the city which could attract tourists, and maintain Sydney as a global city, but that they should be developed according to the rules. “I commend the Department for reflecting the concerns of the community.  The City has approved over 5,700 hotel rooms in the city in the last 5 years and remains open to working with hotel developers in our city to ensure we get the best outcomes for every Sydneysider from future developments.”

Not putting on The Ritz

The fate of the Ritz Carlton hotel now is with the Independent Planning Commission. Seeing as most times the Independent Planning Commission agrees with the NSW Department of Planning’s recommendations, the future of The Star’s Ritz Carlton hotel could be at a standstill for good.

The Carlton Ritz hotel has sparked a debate between sectors of the NSW government. Planning Minister Rob Stokes was in agreement with his department’s recommendation and argued that the proposed development was above height restrictions in the area and that not every part of the development had been considered.

On the other hand, Treasurer Dominic Perrotet was concerned that there should have been better communication between the developer and NSW Department of Planning. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian also came out in support of the Carlton Ritz hotel and wanted to reach a compromise. She said that hotels like this would enhance Sydney, but agreed that proper guidelines needed to be followed.