The PAC will decide whether or not to approve the latest design of Packer’s $2 billion Barangaroo Casino, and heard stakeholders including the City of Sydney call for its rejection.
Last Thursday the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) was addressed by parties such as the Australian Institute of Architects, who largely criticised the current proposed design’s imposition on public space, and the Department of Planning’s preliminary approval.
One of the most vocal critics was City of Sydney’s Graham Jahn, who proclaimed a “clear failure in the assessment” in regards to public interest and site suitability.
“North-eastern views of the Opera House for 66 apartments and VIP guests, at the expense of permanent foreshore parkland for Sydneysiders, cannot be a defendable trade-off under the [Environmental Planning and Assessment] Act,” offered Jahn.
Under discussion is Lend Lease’s proposed changes to the Barangaroo South plan, known as ‘Modification 8’. They were drafted in response to Department of Planning requirements to locate the hotel onshore, rather than in Darling Harbour as originally proposed.
Former government architect Peter Mould was very critical of plans to add nearly 30 floors of luxury apartments, bringing the total to 69 storeys and adding almost 100 metres in height to the design first approved in 2010.
“The only possible explanation for this change is increased profits without any accrued public benefit. In fact, there is considerable public dis-benefit,” he told the PAC.
Member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich, pronounced that the community has developed a strong sense the project planning and approvals had become driven by profit potential.
“Following continuous approvals for increased bulk and scale, it now appears that approvals are guides that can be changed as the project proceeds and opportunities to squeeze more private gain onto the site are uncovered.”
Others, such as CoS councillor Christine Forster, along with Patricia Forsythe of Sydney Business Chambers and Margy Osmond from the Tourism Transport Forum, were in favour of Modification 8, praising its “bold” design and “iconic” appeal.
James Packer’s Crown Resorts cold approached the government with the original proposal to build a high-roller casino in the Barangaroo area.
A series of hurdles has seen it be re-located and undergo several design changes to accommodate interests of all parties, with development more than double the original 2005 design brief.
While debate rages over its fulfilment of the label of a new “icon” for Sydney’s waterside and the commercialisation of public space that has been off-limits to the people for a century, the enormous monies involved and stench of politics – plus the enigmatic exclusion of the casinos from the punitive ‘lockout’ laws – bring into question the underlying rationales of the developers and the authorities.