It has been a long journey for Crown Resorts in the quest to open its new high roller casino in Barangaroo, and now the operator is finally in the clear. Today, the company has received approval from the NSW Planning Assessment Commission (PAC), which has recommended a number of modifications and conditions to the plans.

Two major changes have been recommended by the PAC. Crown must widen the promenade to 30 metres while Hickson Park must be increased in size and redesigned in order to make it ‘an inviting, quality green space’. Additionally, the commission has required that the amount of key worker housing on the property should be increased from 2.3% to 3% of the residential floor.

While the recommendations will result in substantial changes to the design of the casino, the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) still has some complaints.

Earlier this year, the Department of Planning and Environment and the Barangaroo Advisory Panel recommended that Crown Resorts reduce the size of the tower in order to allow for more public domain along the harbour – but the casino operator refused and instead decided to redesign Watermans Cove. The Department of Planning eventually accepted the negotiation, which attracted criticism from Sydney’s media.

Now, the construction of the casino will go ahead, with the controversial design, and the AIA has some strong words about it. Chapter President Shaun Carter says: “What happened today was the people of Sydney lost a public park on the harbour foreshore. Forever. Instead, they [will] get a 36 metre podium on which a 275m tower will sit, obstructing access and views to the real icon of Sydney, the harbour”.

While the PAC’s recommendations have made only small changes to the tower, the commission feels that it made a fair compromise. Representatives of the PAC believe that enhancing Hickson Park and widening the promenade waterfront creates a fair balance between what is best for the public and what is best for Crown Resorts.

The casino developer is pleased with the result. Crown Resorts Chairman Robert Ranking has issued a statement about how eager the executive team is to begin the construction process: “While it has been a long and detailed process. We will now move quickly to begin excavation work. We are expecting to complete construction and open in early 2021.”