Council threatens legal action over Balmain Tigers blaze

The 2019 artistic impressions for the Balmain Tigers Leagues Club development.

The outspoken mayor of Inner West Council, Darcy Byrne, says he may take legal action against Transport for NSW over a fire at a derelict rugby leagues club in Sydney that is the site of a stalled $400m ­development scheme.

Emergency services were called to the Balmain Leagues Club in Rozelle about 4.30pm on Saturday after the long-unused club went up in flames.

The origins of the fire are now under investigation, with reports that two teenage boys were seen running from the club after the fire began.

The derelict site, which has sat empty since 2010, has become a point of contention between the NSW government and council after Transport for NSW issued a compulsory acquisition order over the property to be used as a tunnelling dive site.

The site has sat empty, with Saturday’s fire arriving as “no surprise”, Mr Byrne said.

“This is not the first fire. The fireys and ambos and police are going out there very regularly,” he said.

“The transport minister and the Premier need to act today to demolish this building. If they don’t, I’m going to be exploring all legal avenues to force them to do so.”

Chinese-backed developer Heworth Holdings has promoted $400m plans to turn the site into a town square with a new club for the Balmain Tigers and 167 residences overhead.

The plan sought to deliver multi-level parking, laneways, arts studios and communal space under a scheme approved in September 2020.

Balmain Leagues Club fire. Picture: Supplied by Peter Brown

However, construction was delayed until 2028 after the compulsory lease acquisition, for which it is still in talks to determine compensation.

“The former Balmain Tigers Leagues Club site, which has been left derelict for a significant period of time, has been an eyesore for the local community,” Heworth head of property Christopher Walsh said.

“Heworth is awaiting an offer of compensation that has been correctly assessed in accordance with the Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act 1991 (Just Terms Act) by the NSW Valuer General.”

Mr Byrne said the council was putting the onus on the NSW government to demolish what remains of the property. “It is a fire safety hazard and a threat to public health and they have simply refused to act for the best part of two years,” he said.

Balmain Leagues Club

Sydney, Australia, Daily Telegraph, Sunday, 8 May 2022 Balmain Leagues Club after the fire last night Saturday 7 May 2022. Picture: Daily Telegraph / Monique Harmer

“This fire must be the catalyst for them taking responsibility and getting the building knocked down.”

Mr Walsh said Heworth had worked closely with the council and the leagues clubs to deliver its plan.

“Heworth, the club and the community have been frustrated and extremely disappointed that we cannot deliver the DA-approved development until 2028, due to the leasehold acquisition of the site by Transport for NSW and the NSW government,” he said.

“The development has stalled, hundreds of future jobs are at risk and the Balmain Tigers are still without their home.”