The North Canberra Community Council has been accused of using disrupt and delay tactics to frustrate development in the inner north.
An angry Ainslie Group chief executive Simon Patterson has hit out at the NCCC for taking its approved childcare proposal to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal, saying it was out of step with the community and warned that it would pursue compensation if successful.
“They are hardly reflective of a community organisation that should represent the broader interests of all demographics in the inner north of Canberra,” Mr Patterson said.
But the NCCC has rejected this, saying it does not oppose development in the inner north but is responding to community members’ concerns.
The Ainslie Group operates the Ainslie Football & Social Club.
Last year it unveiled its 10-year master plan for developing surplus or unused land around the Alan Ray Oval as part of a strategy to find other revenue streams to reduce its reliance on gaming machines.
The $4 million, 92-place childcare centre on Angas Street is the first stage of the long-term development plan, but Mr Patterson said the ACAT appeal would now delay a start on the project for at least six months.
He said the Group could not go out to tender with an appeal pending and the delay would only add to the cost of the project with the construction sector beset with supply chain and price issues.
Mr Patterson echoed the recent concerns of YWCA Canberra, which called on the ACT Government to rein in third-party appeals against proposals that were beneficial to the community after the Ainslie Residents Association took its approved supportive housing project in Rutherford Crescent to ACAT.
He said the Ainslie Group was concerned that the review process on matters of planning and development was “uniquely susceptible to vexatious claims”.
“The Group will defend its position strenuously, and if successful, will explore its options to seek compensation, either individually or collectively,” Mr Patterson said.
“The cost to defend these objections is a waste of our member’s money and ultimately reduces the benefits that we can provide to the community.”
This is the second appeal related to the childcare project after the NCCC objected to a verge crossing on Angas Street needed for a 30-space car park.
This is still to be decided. That appears to be part of the problem, with the planning and land authority approving the childcare centre while that matter is still before ACAT.
Mr Patterson said the NCCC was looking for administrative errors in the childcare centre approval.
“It’s compliant. It’s not encroaching on setbacks, it’s designed tastefully within the heritage nature of Ainslie,” Mr Patterson said.
“We’re looking at meaningful outcomes for the community and additional childcare.”
Mr Patterson said the objection was perplexing because the NCCC and the Ainslie Residents Association had been strong advocates for more childcare facilities in the inner north.
In a statement, the NCCC said that it sought an ACAT review of ACTPLA’s approval of the construction of a verge crossing and subdivision of the Ainslie Football Club site.
“We had concerns with a number of issues, including those relating to safety traffic and the status of the land as a sports and recreation reserve,” ‘the NCCC said.
“The NCCC does not oppose new developments in North Canberra, but it is important that spaces zoned as sports and recreation are retained for this purpose as green spaces will become increasingly important for the community over time.”
The NCCC said the childcare centre raised similar issues.
“We are still reading through the tribunal documents for the childcare centre and determining what has been approved and we will provide further comments in due course,” it said.
Concerned Ainslie residents had reached out to the NCCC for the first time to raise concerns, including around issues such as the traffic analysis not aligning with their lived experience in the neighbourhood, the NCCC said.
“For those who are new to the proceedings or find the process challenging, the NCCC provides a platform for putting these arguments forward for consideration, noting ACAT will ultimately be the final arbiter,” the NCCC said.
An ACAT directions hearing is set down for 22 July.