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Revealed: How News Limited plotted Parramatta move

News Limited’s proposed Cumberland Media Centre.

News Limited has applied for and received planning approval for a new $51.9 million redevelopment of its offices in Parramatta, that could potentially serve as a new headquarters for Australia’s largest newspaper publisher.

However, the company has told Mumbrella’s sister title Encore that it has since shelved plans for the so-called ‘Cumberland Media Centre’, a two stage development that would have provided the company with more than 53,000 square metres of office space.

“Some years ago we submitted what was a nascent plan for a Cumberland Media Centre, which was approved. However, we decided some time ago not to progress with the idea,” said a News Limited spokesman.

The title of the facility comes from the historical name of the company’s local NSW operation Cumberland Newspapers.

While News Limited firmly maintains that it had no plans to relocate to Sydney’s west, we can reveal the publisher is planning major reorganization and consolidation of offices, including plans to “restack” its headquarters at Holt Street, Surry Hills.

The company employs several hundreds of people in Sydney however, it will not disclose the exact numbers.

“They are definitely planning on reorganising their property portfolio quite a bit this year,” said one Holt Street executive.

“From what I understand, there is going to be a restack of the whole building and by the end of the year the majority of people will be sitting at Holt Street or buildings very close to it,” said another. 

The revelations comes amid persistent rumours that News Limited wants to move The Daily Telegraph out from the third floor of its Holt Street offices to make way for other properties such as its magazine and lifestyle division NewsLifeMedia, currently mainly based in Alexandria.

“Senior people at the Daily Telegraph have definitely been told that something is happening but the timing keeps changing,” said one News insider.

News Limited told Encore it has “no current plans” to move The Daily Telegraph. “There are no current plans to move The Daily Telegraph, its newsdesk or its staff from Holt Street”, said the spokesman.

News Limited did not comment on whether it had previously considered moving the tabloid newspaper, which has a strong readership in Sydney’s west.

Encore can reveal the development application approved by Parramatta Council would have seen News Limited build a two stage project. The first stage comprising of the demolition, of the existing building, which currently houses The Parramatta Advertiser and The Daily Telegraph’s Parramatta bureau, before construction of a six storey building, with more than 16,000 square metres of floor area space.

Under the application, submitted and approved in 2011 but previously unreported, stage one of the development has received development approval and was originally scheduled to begin in March of this year.

According to the plans, stage two would see the construction of a whole new building with more than 37,000 square metres of office space and was not scheduled to begin construction until 2014. So far this stage has only received conceptual plan approval.

The plans began before Kim Williams took over as News Limited CEO.

The union which represents journalists says it is concerned about the previously undisclosed plans for Parramatta and the impact they would have on staff if implemented.

Chris Warren, secretary of the Media Arts and Entertainment Alliance, told Encore: “A relocation and reorganisation on this scale requires full and proper consultation. This is about more than their legal obligation. This plan has the potential to cause major uncertainty and disruption.”

“News Limited should be open and transparent with their plans, and start treating staff with the respect they deserve,” he said.

News Limited insiders tell Encore that part of the reason rumours about a move West persist is Kim Williams’s decision, while CEO of Foxtel, to move the Pay-TV operator’s headquarters from Pyrmont to Macquarie Park, in the pursuit of cheaper rents.

Staff at The Daily Telegraph began hearing rumours that they would be moved from around July last year but have not been told officially of any decision to stay or relocate.

“Everyone has been worried about the move for a while now that this was going to happen,” said one Daily Telegraph staffer. “Holt Street is an institution, people base their lives around knowing that Surry Hills is where they are going to be working.”

“It seems so strange, I mean your readers might be out there (in Parramatta) but the stories you write still occur in town” said another staff member.

News Limited rents a number of properties in around the city including expensive harbour view offices in Liverpool Street, where it operates the website News.com.au, and another building nearby Holt Street where polling company Newspoll is housed. It also has offices in Alexandria where it houses Newslifemedia, its magazine brands.

News Limited said any details of a proposed office reorganisation would first be announced to staff. “While we may decide to reorganise our offices from time to time – as every business does – if or when we do so, it will be an internal matter which we will announce to our staff first,” said the spokesman.

Nic Christensen

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