At last week’s NCCC General Meeting, the issue of integrated planning came to the fore during the Suburban Land Agency’s (SLA) presentation on the indicative land release program in North Canberra over the coming years.
One of the areas of focus was Watson Section 76 (a greenfield site between Aspinall Street and the Federal Highway). The SLA noted the Place Plan for the area identified key themes for the future planning of Watson, such as ‘active people’ and ‘sustainable living’.
North Watson residents would, however, be keenly aware that the current design of the suburb (as distinct from ‘old’ Watson) is weighted heavily in favour of private vehicle commuting, with the roads outside townhouse complexes lined with residents’ cars on both sides and a lack of marked cycle lanes makes cycling a dangerous and rarely utilised option for most local residents. For a suburb basically built from scratch over the past several years with proximity to the city and light rail, this is plainly unacceptable.
When the issue of the aggregated impact of hundreds of new commuters on this existing transport infrastructure was raised however, it became clear that this was outside the scope of the SLA and in purview of another Government agency, despite its clear relevance to the SLA’s desired outcome around ‘active living’.
While the SLA, to their credit, undertook to liaise with the relevant agency and revert back to us for a future presentation (and the Garden City Cycle Route (partly funded by Federal Labor as 2022 election commitment) will hopefully alleviate some of these pressures for cyclists) the feeling remains that, in our micro-focus on individual DAs or sites, our planning system isn’t fully capturing the aggregated impacts of new developments across a whole suburb (this includes the need for more schools, green/recreation spaces and amenities).
Initiatives such as the Garden City Cycle Route constantly feel like a reaction to congestion, rather than being proactively considered and factored in as developments are being put forward. If Aspinall Street is to see bumper-to-bumper traffic jams during rush hour over the next few years, let no one say it couldn’t possibly have been foreseen.
In a way, this situation is not surprising, as anyone with experience with public service bureaucracies would be aware of the challenges around ‘silo-ing’ and linking different agency perspectives to deliver an integrated view. With this in mind, it is highly disappointing that the ACT Planning Review ruled out, from the outset (and without explanation), any review of the structure and role of ACT Government planning bodies.
p.s. We did not publish an August newsletter last month due to NCCC Committee absences and members covering other office positions. Our apologies for any inconvenience.
- NCCC September General Meeting: As noted above, the SLA gave a guest presentation on the next areas of North Canberra to be released for residential development under the Indicative Land Release Program, with approximately 1,000 residential dwellings to be released over 2022-23 across the City, Turner and North Watson. The SLA presentation also provided information on some of the City blocks that will be released over the coming years (as shown on this map).
As part of the presentation Q&A, the NCCC noted its support for carpark blocks being converted into residential areas (while also noting the need for corresponding growth in shops, transport infrastructure, services and amenities). Another focus of questioning was around how affordability is factored into the consideration of the tender process when considering developers. The SLA noted that the townhouse/apartment focus of the site is geared to produce more affordable options, but ultimately the SLA is mandated to sell the land at market value, which suggests the successful developer will, in-turn, sell the land at nothing less than market rate.
ACT Health also gave a presentation on the introduction of the ACT My Digital Health Record system, and encouraged members who have questions to visit the website for more information.
- NCCC appeal against Ainslie Football Club’s proposal to rezone Sports and Recreation land: The NCCC recently submitted its appeal to ACAT regarding the Ainslie Football Club’s proposal to re-purpose Sports and Recreation zoned land for a childcare centre (this is separate to the recent ACAT decision on the Angas Street verge crossing).The NCCC’s concerns relate to traffic and safety impacts as well broader concern around the removal of Sport and Recreation zoned land at a time where the value of such green spaces is increasing, particularly in the context of Ainslie’s growing density and the impacts of climate change exacerbating the urban heat island effect. We also note there are areas of this site that are not included in the Sport and Recreation reserve and a childcare centre could be more appropriately considered for those areas.
While the NCCC has elected not to participate in any media campaign over the issue while the case is being considered by ACAT, we encourage anyone interested in finding out more about the NCCC’s position to contact us directly.
- Calls to removal of Monash Drive from the National Capital Plan: The NCCC recently wrote to our newly elected federal representatives to reiterate calls for Monash Drive to be removed from the National Capital Plan (NCP). Monash Road was first proposed to run along the base of Mt Majura/Mt Ainslie by Walter Burley Griffin in 1925 and then gazetted by the Commonwealth in 1956.
In addition to the environmental concerns around establishing a new road in areas that most of the community would consider to effectively be part of the Mt Majura/Ainslie nature reserve (see maps here of the intended route), the opening of the Majura Parkway in 2016 makes any business case for the road effectively redundant.
We note that the ACT Government has committed to never build the road, but until the National Capital Authority officially removes it from the NCP, the possibility that a future ACT Government changes this decision cannot be ruled out.
We thank Senator Katy Gallagher for passing on our concerns to the new Minister responsible for the National Capital Authority, Kirsty McBain MP, and we look forward to her response.
Local news and updates
- Garden City Cycle Route consultation: Communication Link held a workshop on 15 September regarding the proposed alignment route for the new Garden City Cycle Route. This cycle route will start in North Watson, travel through Dickson, Ainslie and Braddon and connect through to Civic. The plan is to connect key streets in Hackett, Downer, Dickson, and Braddon to the route.
Given the concerns raised about the original workshop being held in business hours, Communication Link have added an extra online session on Wednesday 28 September at 5pm-6.30pm (via Teams) for the benefit of North Canberra residents who could not make the 15 September meeting.
If you would like to attend the online session please email Emily Heath at Communication Link ASAP at email@example.com (and CC firstname.lastname@example.org). Ms Heath will then send you the invite for the online meeting by return email.
- Inquiry into the ACT Planning Bill: The Standing Committee on Planning, Transport and City Services has announced it will be undertaking an inquiry into the Planning Bill 2022.
Given the significance of this piece of legislation, we encourage interested NCCC members to lodge a submission.
The Terms of Reference for the inquiry are available on the Committee website. Information about how to make a submissionis available on the Assembly website, with submissions closing on 16 November 2022.
- New developments announced: Plans have been released for a 156 room serviced apartment in the Northbourne Village precinct on the old Owen Flats site on Northbourne Avenue (just north of Macarthur Avenue). The building is the fourth to be developed on the 25,000 square meter site, which JWLand purchased from the ACT Government in 2017, with the DA yet to be released.
The Yowani Country Club has also announced plans to re-develop some sections of its site, near the Barton Highway/Northbourne Avenue intersection. Yowani’s plans for development are being divided into a number of separate DAs, which makes it difficult to provide a comprehensive assessment of the plans at this stage (with the intention for the section of the site facing Lyneham on Mouat street not yet clear). However, details on the re-development of the Block 7 site are available at this website.
- New Haig Park gravel paths create controversy: The Braddon Collective has raised concerns around the new unsealed gravel paths that have been installed in Haig Park, which makes travel for bicycles and prams difficult and effectively excludes community members with disability or mobility challenges (you can see some of the pictures of the new paths in the RiotACT).
The City Renewal Authority has told the Braddon Collective the gravel paths were not suited to wheelchairs, prams or bikes and those people should use the concrete paths, but the NCCC agrees with the Collective that all paths in the park should be accessible for all ages and abilities so no one was excluded.
We hope the City Renewal Authority re-considers their current position that the “job is now complete.