The NSW government has approved the initial stage of a controversial Australian Turf Club proposal to redevelop Rosehill racecourse for housing.

Rosehill racecourse
Rosehill racecourse could close by 2028 (Photo: Steve Christo/Corbis via Getty Images)

In a letter sent to members on Friday, ATC chairman Peter McGauran said the state government had accepted the club’s submission and preliminary assessment for a plan to sell Rosehill.

A sale of the ATC’s biggest real estate asset is tipped to generate a $5 billion windfall for the club. The western Sydney racetrack’s land will be used to build 25,000 new homes.

The proposed sale became public for the first time in December in a joint announcement from the Minns government and the ATC.

An update on the NSW government’s Department of Enterprise, Investment and Trade website on Friday, confirmed the ATC’s unsolicited proposal had advanced to stage two.

“The NSW government has determined that the proposal … is of sufficient interest to warrant further development and progression to a more defined project,” the department said.

Amid widespread industry opposition to the sell-off, McGauran said the next stage involved the ATC working with members, stakeholders and the NSW government to develop a detailed proposal.

“Please note that progression to Stage 2 does not guarantee that the ATC’s proposal will proceed to Stage 3 (negotiation of final binding offer) of the process,” he wrote.

“The outcome of Stage 2 may be that either the NSW government or ATC determines that the detailed proposal should not be accepted.”

McGauran said members would be asked to vote on the plan “later this year” when they had been given all the facts.

A state department assessment panel found that the ATC’s proposal made it “uniquely positioned” to deliver on key government plans and priorities.

In return for the sale of Rosehill, the ATC wants government support to identify a suitable location for a new racetrack and access to available land at Horsley Park on Sydney’s western outskirts as a training centre.

But there is growing industry opposition to the proposal with the “Save Rosehill” lobby group formed to protest against the racecourse sell-off.

The lobby group has the backing of leading industry figures such as trainers Gai Waterhouse, Chris Waller, John O’Shea and Anthony Cummings.

Powerful lobby group examining ‘all avenues’ in Save Rosehill agenda
The Save Rosehill lobby group, which has said it mistrusts the Australian Turf Club’s intentions on the process for selling off the racecourse, has the support of some of the biggest names in Australian racing.

Former ATC board members Julia Ritchie and Matt McGrath, as well as prominent owner and breeder Debbie Kepitis, are among the well-known racing identities who are also against the proposal.

This intensifying level of public scrutiny comes as the NSW Upper House voted to set up a Select Committee inquiry into the Rosehill process.

The nine-member Committee will be chaired by Shadow Minister for Planning Scott Farlow and is expected to sit for three days of hearings with submissions closing on July 18.

The inquiry's scope includes the nature of the ATC’s unsolicited proposal and the NSW government's involvement in the process before it was made public.

It has the power to call witnesses, who could include McGauran, members of the ATC executive, and Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys.

Racing NSW lobbied government on Rosehill proposal ahead of public announcement
Peter V’landys met with representatives of the NSW government to express his support for the sale of Rosehill while raising concerns about the Australian Turf Club’s board structure weeks before the contentious proposal was announced.

The Straight revealed in April that V’landys and former Racing NSW chairman Russell Balding held a confidential meeting with the NSW government Cabinet Office to discuss the sale of Rosehill racecourse three weeks before the proposal was made public in December.

Documents reveal V’Landys and Baldwin supported the sale but they raised concerns about the future governance of the ATC board.

They argued that the estimated $5 billion from the sale should be "reinvested to benefit the racing industry as a whole" rather than retained by the club.

V’Landys told this masthead that Racing NSW did not instigate the ATC’s proposal to the state government.

‘A multi-billion dollar proposition should not be drawn up on the back of a napkin’ – NSW parliament to hold inquiry into Rosehill
The Rosehill sale process and the operations of the Australian Turf Club and Racing NSW are set to be scrutinised after the NSW Legislative Council established a parliamentary inquiry.