Planning Minister planned Windsor Hotel sham?

THE VICTORIAN Government has been embarrassed by the accidental email release of a secret strategy to the ABC, reportedly containing a document entitled 'Minister for Planning Justin Madden Media Plan'. The document, written by a member of Mr Madden's staff, includes a strategy for rejecting the planned redevelopment of Melbourne's heritage-listed Windsor Hotel.

The email states that the Windsor Advisory Committee is expected to recommend that the government approve the proposed $260 million Windows Hotel redevelopment. The email says that the strategy is "to release it [the committee's report] for public comment, as this affects the entire community, and then use those responses as reason to halt it, as we have listened to community views."

The sham consultation process has damaged the Planning Minister, with the Opposition demanding an inquiry on planning. It comes at a difficult time for the Minister. Last week, the Growth Areas Infrastructure Contribution Bill was defeated by parliament, effectively rendering useless Melbourne's metropolitan plan, Melbourne @ 5 Million.

Mr Madden blamed the bungled media release on a media adviser, who has since been counselled and redeployed. He said the strategy does not reflect government policy, calling it a speculative internal operating draft document.

Mr Madden said a decision had not been made on the Windsor Hotel redevelopment and announced the appointment of a probity auditor to oversee the assessment process.

Last July, the Windsor Hotel redevelopment was announced, designed by architecture firm Denton Corker Marshall.  The proposal includes refurbishment of the original hotel building, a 25-storey building behind the original hotel building and a new corner building to replace the existing 1960's north wing addition.

At completion, the hotel will have an extra 152 rooms, bringing total accommodation to 332 rooms and suites. An economic analysis prepared for the Hotel Windsor by Essential Economics says the project will create 560 jobs a year during the 30 month construction period. Once built, the hotel will employ 135 more people and create another 175 jobs through the employment multiplier effect.

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