Abandoned Balmain leagues club up in flames

UNDER INVESTIGATION: A firefighter at the scene of the fire at the Balmain Leagues Club. Picture: Facebook/ Ross E Tesoriero
UNDER INVESTIGATION: A firefighter at the scene of the fire at the Balmain Leagues Club. Picture: Facebook/ Ross E Tesoriero

A "large" fire which broke out at the disused Balmain Leagues Club on Saturday is being treated as suspicious and is under investigation.

Heworth Holdings Group - which currently owns the derelict Rozelle property with plans to develop it - said the fire caused "extensive damage" to the site. "We are relieved that no-one has been injured," said Christopher Walsh, Head of Property at Heworth Holdings Group.

The site of the former home of the Balmain Tigers has been left to decay since the club was partially demolished in 2010. Following years of disuse, in 2018 Heworth Holdings Group secured the site for $75 million with the vision of creating a $400 million mixed-use development which would include a community arts studio, 167 residential apartments, a supermarket and the new Balmain Tigers Leagues Club.

Preliminary works had commenced on site however, last October, Transport for NSW compulsorily acquired a lease over the property to use it as a tunnelling "dive site" for the Western Harbour Tunnel project.

"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," said Mr Walsh. "The development has stalled, hundreds of future jobs are at risk and the Balmain Tigers are still without their home."

"We are relieved that no-one has been injured."

Christopher Walsh

Inner West mayor Darcy Byrne said given the state of the building, the fire was "no surprise". "We have repeatedly and publicly called on the NSW Government to allow this building to be demolished because of the fire and safety threat there," he said. "The Transport Minister and the Premier must now stop the delays and immediately allow this hazardous eyesore to be demolished and the site made safe."

Emergency services were called to Rozelle after multiple reports of a fire at Victoria Road near Darling Street about 4:35pm on Saturday. Eight crews from Fire and Rescue NSW took about 15 minutes to control the blaze. Fire crews say a large amount of rubbish and debris on site led flames to spread quickly and generate a lot of smoke and heat.

Officers from Leichhardt Police Area Command are investigating the cause of the blaze. Witnesses reported seeing two males run from the area shortly after the incident. Police are urging anyone who may have witnessed the fire to contact Leichhardt police or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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