The $2 billion Crown Sydney Hotel Resort at Barangaroo South has been approved by the NSW Planning Assessment Commission who made it clear that it didn’t have the power to make all the changes to the development that the public wanted.

In in its determination report released on Tuesday, the PAC approved the controversial Barangaroo Concept Plan MOD 8, subject to a number of conditions, despite concerns from the City of Sydney, former government architect Peter Mould and NSW President of the Australian Institute of Architects, Shaun Carter, that the skyscraper would be built on land previously reserved for a public park.

The approval conditions will be to include a wider foreshore walk around the building, an increased amount of space to Hickson Park east of the casino, and an increase in the number of affordable apartments offered at Barangaroo. But James Packer’s private building will remain on land previously promised to the public.

The PAC said it was sympathetic to the concerns regarding the building’s siting but made it clear that their jurisdiction stopped at assessing the merit of the proposed redistribution of built form and public domain and that they had no power to direct relocation of the building.

The blame for the location of the building, said the PAC, rests with NSW Parliament who made the State Environment Planning Policy (SEPP) for the project back in 2013, effectively making the siting of the Crown Hotel unchangeable. The PAC said that while the legislation gave them the power to recommend changes to the building according to the SEPP, its power did not extend to relocating the building.

The decision was not surprisingly unwelcomed by Carter who took to his social media to express his distaste.

“People of Sydney you have been let down. The PAC have approved MOD 8 with minor changes,” Carter Tweeted.

“Planning on public land seems to be done by the "deal", behind closed doors, with little or no public consultation.”*

Carter also called for a change to SEPP laws which, as the PAC demonstrated, can allow for site changes but not relocation.

“Seems odd you can change SEPPs to widen a park but not the siting of a Casino in a public park,” he said.*


The PAC determined that the Crown Sydney will become a sculptural and elegant signature building on the foreshore. Image: Wilkinson Eyre Architects

In its determination, the PAC concluded that with their recommended changes to the project, including the extension and integration of Hickson Park into the wider Barangaroo public domain, the public good has been given a more equal status with the private good in delivering the proposed changes to the Sydney Harbour foreshore at Barangaroo South.

This is despite strong opinions that Hickson Park was an inferior compromise of “left over space that would simply be a foreground to the buildings surrounding it,” and that the public’s interest hadn’t been considered by the people in power who could make the changes they wanted.

“If you asked the people of Sydney what they wanted, a Public Park on the Harbour or a Casino, it's a no brainer,” says Carter

“But NSW politicians didn't ask them.”*

The chairman of Crown Resorts, Robert Rankin, told Fairfax on Tuesday the company would soon move to start excavation work and expected to open in early 2021.

*Shaun Carter’s Twitter posts have been amended