The Government’s “Time to Talk” consultations resulted in broad acceptance of the potential benefits of urban densification. Two recent consultations have highlighted the importance of densifying in a way that is compatible with existing suburbs, and of gaining and maintaining community acceptance.
Consultation on Section 5 in Campbell involved many Campbell residents in deciding which of several options they preferred for a 7-storey residential-commercial development. The project included “upgrading” of some local parkland, which also provided a buffer zone between the existing single-storey dwellings and the new development. By-and-large, the Campbell community seems to accept the proposed development.
Consultation on the redevelopment of the Allawah, Bega and Currong flats were initially done on the basis of a single option with building heights not a lot greater than the current 8-storey maximum. Rather than being asked for input into the decision-making process, residents were essentially asked whether or not they accepted what was proposed. From what I have heard, they broadly accepted the proposal.
The next stage was not so much a refinement of what the community has agreed, but a new, radical proposal for high-rise flats of up to 15 storeys in what is currently a garden suburb of mainly single-storey dwellings. This is three times the height of the buildings across the road in the Town Centre, and higher than anything along Canberra’s main thoroughfare of Northbourne Avenue.
With hindsight, it’s not surprising that many residents felt that the new proposal is inappropriate, and that their concerns were not being addressed.
We considered the issue at our February meeting, with the assistance of a presentation by Peter Johns of the Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate. The meeting agreed to prepare a submission in consultation with Reid and Braddon residents. This became one of 137 submissions – a number that indicates the depth of community feeling on the issue.
Recent changes to planning rules have made it easier to gain approval for some types of building works. In some cases this means that neighbours no longer have the right to raise objections to their Development Approvals.
We considered one example where a normal house was replaced by a two-storey house with 7 bedrooms, five bathrooms and two kitchens, without even being required to have a Development Approval. We raised this at a meeting with the Chief Minister, and were advised that the house complies with the appropriate Rules. The real issue appears to be whether the Government has got the right balance between administrative efficiency and the rights of neighbours. We are continuing to investigate this issue.
Review of the ACT Self Government Act
Many people advocate changing the Act to increase the number of members in the ACT Legislative Assembly and in the Ministry. This would spread the Ministers’ workloads, and might allow Canberra’s electorates to each have the same number of members. The Council will propose that the number of Members be determined by the Legislative Assembly itself, rather than in the Act. This will mean that the Commonwealth Parliament will no longer need to concern itself with this issue.
Other issues arising from the review of the Act include the value of improving the integrity of the Government in the ACT by means such as making the Ombudsman and the Attorney-General more independent of the Executive (Officers of Parliament). The Council intends to make a submission to this review.
Our next meeting will be at 7.30 pm on 21 March, at ACT Sports House, 100 Maitland St Hackett. We will plan a “meet the candidates” series for the lead-up to the October ACT election.
An article in The Chronicle – 14 March 2012
By Leon Arundell, Chair
North Canberra Community Council