A planning expert has slammed the approval of a 323-meter hotel and apartment complex in Melbourne, saying an exemption received from normal planning rules should have been allowed.

Following approval of a 90-storey tower to be built by James Packer’s Crown Resorts, RMIT planning expert Professor Michael Buxton slammed the way in which the project had been exempted from normal planning rules and would thus be allowed a density three times that which would typically be allowable under new rules which the government put in place to curb density within the CBD late last year.

Ordinarily, new planning rules adopted last year would limit development to an eighteen to one plot ratio, but the new complex was given an exemption from this requirement by being ruled a project of state significance.

Buxton says the exemption will open a Pandora’s box in which other developers will also want exemptions.

“Every single big player will want the exception, so [Mr Wynne] has torpedoed his own rules,” Buxton is quoted as saying in The Australian Financial Review.

Buxton also said Crown rather than the community would be the primary beneficiaries of the new development.

“There is very little in it for Melbourne, but a lot in it for Crown,” he said.

But the government has defended the approval, saying the project will create 3,000 direct and indirect jobs during construction as well as 1,000 operational jobs.

“This is a bold transformation of Melbourne’s skyline that will build on our state’s reputation as the nation’s leader for tourism,” Premier Danial Andrews said.

According to Andrews, developers Crown Melbourne and the Schiavello Group will give back a package worth $100 million in community benefits.

This includes a $25 million upgrade to Queensbridge Square (including landscaping and two new cafes, a further $15 million of Sandbridge Rail Bridge, landscaping and public realm improvements on Southern Boulevard and street furniture and additional trees along Queen Street.