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Slow lane: Heritage row may delay CBD tower for another four years

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Brisbane City Council has given developers more time to build a CBD tower despite concerns over the impact on a historic laneway.

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Singaporean developer WCL wants to build a 91-storey tower on the corner of Albert and Margaret Streets, overhanging heritage-listed Beatrice Lane.

WCL, also known as World Class Land, obtained tentative Brisbane City Council approval in 2016, and is poised to benefit from the area’s renewal as part of the Cross River Rail project. It is working through underground boundary issues.

But after WCL blocked off the laneway in preparation for development, neighbouring property owner Orb Holdings took the matter to the Supreme Court, where it was decided the fate of the lane should be given further consideration.

In December, WCL asked council to extend its development approvals, rather than require new applications and the added burden of assessment under what is now a transport corridor. With current approvals set to expire in June, it also noted how “current global circumstances have had an impact on the property and its development”.

Two weeks ago, council granted WCL a four-year extension of the currency period of its approvals. The new expiry date will coincide with Cross River Rail becoming operational, with an adjacent Albert Street station, only adding value to WCL’s property holdings.

The heritage-listed lane was built around 1887 to service buildings on Margaret Street and by 1895 had been extended to Albert Street. Stonework was laid in two rows to provide a carriageway for the wagons and drays that used the lane, with a section of the stonework still visible at the Margaret Street entrance.

The surrounding site was originally owned by trustees of Brisbane Grammar School, who purchased land bounded by Margaret, Albert and Alice streets in 1874. Various planning changes followed – Beatrice Lane was a name only recognised late in the process – and in 2008 the land was sold to a developer before being sold again. There are unanswered questions over the status of the lane.

It is unclear whether Orb Holdings will continue to push for changes to WCL’s plans to protect its own site.

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