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ACT Government needs to lift its game on planning

By aussielyn - 28 June 2013 18

The Government’s decision to use call-in powers to allow the Brumbies’ development in Griffith to proceed, when it does not comply with the Government’s own planning regulations, has set a dangerous precedent. As the current legislation stands, when the Planning Minister uses his/her call-in powers to approve a development, an appeal to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal cannot be lodged.

What is the point of having a Territory Plan and a set of planning rules when a Minister can break the rules whenever he or she wants to, and cannot be held to account?

The point in this case appears to be to subvert the planning rules for the benefit of the Brumbies.

Apart from using the call-in powers, the government have waived a $7.5 million Lease Variation Charge – a significant loss of revenue we can ill afford. Furthermore, the Government is providing a $5 million grant to the University of Canberra towards Brumbies’ new building, a special one off $1 million grant and of course the $1.2 million annual grant and the $0.6 million payroll tax waiver. In total the government support in 2013/14 will amount to more than $15 million and then there will be the proceeds from the sale of the apartments in Griffith.

In future, developers will be able to point to the Brumbies development as an example for ‘bending’ or even breaking planning rules to increase profits.

Let’s look at some of the non-compliant features of the Brumbies development, which comprises 131 apartments on the 1.68 hectare site.

Firstly, it does not conform with any of the objectives for medium density residential development as specified in the planning rules. Its dwelling density of 78 per hectare far exceeds the 25 – 60 dwellings per hectare specified in the Canberra Spatial Plan for medium density housing.

Secondly, the development is also supposed to “respect and contribute to the neighbourhood and landscape character of residential areas whilst carefully managing change in suitable locations”. It is difficult to see how it achieves this, when the site is surrounded by open parkland zoned as Urban Open Space, a Heritage Listed oval and low density detached houses.

The excessive size of the development for this site has several flow-on effects. Let’s just look at some of them. The first relates to visitor parking. The Parking and Vehicular Access (PVA) Code requires the provision of 0.25 of a visitor parking space for each apartment. For this site the developer needs to provide 33 visitor spaces. In fact only nine have been provided on site, and the Minister has reduced the requirement from 33 to 25. So what is the point of a code if it can be overruled at will?

The current proposal is for visitors to park on Austin Street, but these parking spaces already exist, so it cannot be said they will be provided by the developer. As a result, the developer will not have to fund a further 16 (or 24 to comply with the code) visitor parking spaces. The public has been deprived of these spaces in the street and the developer has been effectively subsidised by the public.
The third issue relates to solar access. The Development Code requires that the site allows a minimum of three hours of direct sunlight onto the floor or internal wall of the main daytime living area and the front edge of any associated private open space of at least 70% of apartments between the hours of 9.00 am and 3.00 pm on 21 June. However, only 57% of apartments meet the rule for living areas and only 67% meet the rule as it applies to private open space.

The Minister has used his call-in powers to approve a development, which fails to meet the Government’s solar access policy and at the same time claims that it is in the public interest for the development proceed.

Fourthly, the area of ~607 m2 allocated for workers to park during construction appears too small, judging by the parking requirements for nearby developments. The application should not have been approved without the developer providing a proper estimate of the parking space required on-site during construction. Extensive illegal parking on nearby verges and parks should not be allowed.

Finally, in the report by the Legislative Assembly’s Standing Committee on Planning on the change of zoning for this site, it is recommended that any redevelopment be conditional on “comprehensive flood studies” being undertaken and made publicly available. The clear implication is that the studies undertaken on the applicant’s behalf were not considered to be sufficient in the Committee’s view. The Minister has ignored this recommendation without making public his advice or the calculations made to obtain the estimates on which he based his decision.

This is just not good enough – it is time for the Government to lift its game.

David Denham,President GNCA

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18 Responses to
ACT Government needs to lift its game on planning
Thumper 9:10 am 01 Jul 13

This government can do absolutely anything it wants.

They will never be voted out, as proven in the last election, and Rattenbury is nothing more than an ALP member these days.

You get what you vote for…

Deref 8:16 am 01 Jul 13

Nothing new here – the ACT government has been a wholly-owned subsidiary of the development industry for as long as I can remember.

Tetranitrate 6:16 pm 30 Jun 13

Given the increasingly liberal use of the call-in powers, perhaps it’s time for the entire system to be overhauled. Clearly it’s dysfunctional – the lack of any timely supply response from the market to high prices and rents from the mid 00s, now followed by a ‘too late’ glut of apartments coming onto the market is highly typical of markets with dysfunctional planning systems.
There’s always going to be a lag between increasing demand and increasing supply when you’re talking about houses and apartments, but the more bureaucratic and tardy the planning system is, the longer it’s going to take, the higher prices will rise, and the more likely and worse any future crash will be since high sale prices and rents will attract lots and lots of new builds that take a long time to get through the pipeline, and may well emerge after demand has slackened (which is exactly what’s happened here, as well as in Melbourne).

Rather than arbitrary use of the call-in powers that hands windfall gains to those with mates in the right places, the whole system needs to be torn down and rebuilt, land releases as well.

breda 4:16 pm 30 Jun 13

Given that our money (not to mention foregone tax income) has been so lavishly sprayed around the business enterprise that is the Brumbies, what do we get back for it?

Has this dopey government learned nothing from the Kodak debacle, or indeed the car industry in South Australia? They smile, take the money, and once it is spent just do whatever they were going to do anyway. Billions of dollars of taxpayer monies have been flushed down the dunny in this way.

So, what, if any, conditions are there? Do they have to stay here for X years? Do they have to give Y% of their profits to local charities? Is there a requirement for a solid Juniors program? I’m sure other readers can think of other questions. Another one that comes to mind is the number and payscales of administrators and hangers-on whose salaries have to be funded.

Or, is it just, “grovel, grovel; slobber, slobber; thanks so much for staying and see you at the next game in the VIP seating. Every Canberran (whether they have any interest in RU or not) who has selflessly helped to pay for this venture is right behind me.”

Innovation 2:19 pm 30 Jun 13

“The Development Code requires ….. direct sunlight …. of at least 70% of apartments ……”

Slightly off topic but I have never understood why the Government permits any units that do not have sufficient sunlight – let alone the high number permitted in this case. Obviously a developer would not then be able to put as many units on each site but I don’t see why future apartment dwellers should end up in (worst case) south facing apartments with no natural winter sunlight. I don’t think that the Government permits a similar ratio for single dwelling housing in a residential development.

I have no issue with medium/high density developments but the Government’s eagerness to jam as many units as possible onto some sites seems to be an attempt to maximise revenue from the change of use and a knee jerk reaction to increase population density as quickly as possible.

Innovation 2:03 pm 30 Jun 13

Affirmative Action Man said :

And what happens if the Brumbies franchise decides to move to Adelaide or Tasmania ?

Using that argument, what if any commercial business or enterprise decided to take their activities interstate? If this was a likely outcome, and the Government presumably wanted to keep the Brumbies (or any other entity) here, a better way would be to provide (a) conditional grant(s) as necessary. (That doesn’t mean though that they must start chucking even more money around)

Mr Evil 1:38 pm 30 Jun 13

gooterz said :

How many of the apartments did Simon Corbell buy?

Probably none – but if he did, they were a gift……. 🙂

miz 12:29 pm 30 Jun 13

Thank you for setting this out this disgraceful situation so clearly. I am amazed that they think it was OK to do this. Those call-in powers have to go, they are anti-democratic.

Madam Cholet 11:27 am 30 Jun 13

Where are the opposition and the Greens in all of this? The goverment does what it wants because the Libs don’t have the numbers and the Greens just endorse doing what the government wants so they keep their seat. The Greens should take note that the voters were decidedly unhappy with them at the last election. If they carry on they will be totally wiped out here next time. Which can only be a good thing for canberrans.

steveu 6:50 am 29 Jun 13

crappicker said :

Very well put, David

+ 1

funbutalsoserious 9:54 pm 28 Jun 13

Well put David.

I know how it works, the ACT Government is rotten to the core and unfortunately we have to put up with stupid decisions like this, the light rail, the stupid prices for water, the skypig and this will unfortunately keep up until at least the next election.

I can’t believe my fellow people in Canberra voted for these inept, wanna-be politicians at the last election.

gooterz 8:55 pm 28 Jun 13

How many of the apartments did Simon Corbell buy?

Affirmative Action M 5:25 pm 28 Jun 13

And what happens if the Brumbies franchise decides to move to Adelaide or Tasmania ?

beardedclam 2:08 pm 28 Jun 13

Hard to argue the point. Fair criticism.

crappicker 1:56 pm 28 Jun 13

Very well put, David

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