Ainslie residents upset at supported accommodation development plans for park

Ian Bushnell 3 September 2020 35
Bill Pye Park

Residents are upset at plans for a unit development in Bill Pye Park in Ainslie. Photos: Supplied.

Government plans to develop a section of a popular park in Ainslie for supported accommodation have upset nearby residents who do not want to lose a community asset, worry that it will make their street less safe and change the character of the neighbourhood.

The YWCA has been gifted the land, believed to be worth $2.75 million, along with $125,000 for design and planning, but will not pay for construction of the development.

The organisation wants to demolish a former pre-school building on the site that it has been allowed to use free of charge for around 20 years and replace it with 10 units occupying about a third of Bill Pye Park on Rutherford Crescent.

The $5 million development is part of the ACT Government’s affordable housing plan and will provide eight units for older women and two two-bedroom units for families escaping domestic violence.

Residents say they are not NIMBYs or opposed to public or social housing; in fact, some residents in the area are in that kind of accommodation themselves, but they feel the site is not suitable and believe there are better pieces of land available.

The development came to notice late last December with a letterbox drop from architects AMC who staged a Powerpoint presentation, but a development application is imminent and residents believe that the project will now be rammed through.

AMC's plans

AMC’s plans for the development. Image: Supplied.

Rutherford Crescent Committee spokesperson Ian Hubbard says the units and parking spaces are being crammed on a small 1800 square metre site on a very tight bend in Rutherford Crescent, with a driveway directly on to the street that will impact residents opposite and create traffic problems.

He says the park itself is heavily used and the building is an example of mid-20th century architecture that is designed into the park, unlike the planned development which ”looks like a 1970 motel”.

The park is one of only three of its kind in Ainslie, the others being Ainslie and Baker Gardens.

”If you are going to spend $5 million you could get a little bit more land, and land that is designed for residential,” Mr Hubbard said.

He believes the project is well-intentioned but bad planning policy in the making.

”The problem with this development is that it is just an excision of a block of land to put a whole bunch of supported accommodation on there because it’s an easy thing for the government to do,” Mr Hubbard said.

Ainslie is zoned RZ1 residential and the proposal is an RZ4 level planning project that will increase the density of the neighbourhood and have an impact on the design of the original suburb, he said.

The current building on the site

The site, with its current building, on Rutherford Crescent in Ainslie.

Mr Hubbard said the situation was typical of what was happening across Canberra as the government searches for so-called unutilised land to build public or social housing.

”Across Canberra this is being too convenient, where they’re sweeping up all the community facilities land and converting it to residential, increasing the density of residential in areas not zoned for that density,” he said.

He warned that there may not be much land left for actual community facilities at this rate.

He added the development also went against the stated ‘salt and pepper’ policy for public and social housing in the ACT.

Mr Hubbard said the residents had written to the YWCA to see if it could assist it to find an alternative location but had not had a response.

”What the residents want is a more engaging consultation process. At least give us a chance to see if there is an alternative use that doesn’t impact on the people as heavily as this is going to do,” he said.

The project is an initiative of the Affordable Housing Innovation Fund established last year.

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35 Responses to Ainslie residents upset at supported accommodation development plans for park
ainsliemum ainsliemum 1:52 pm 24 Nov 20

For those interested in more facts and information, please head to the Ainslie Community Association (ACA) website: [ainslie community association DOT com].

Elisa Flaherty Elisa Flaherty 3:31 pm 20 Nov 20

I am an Ainslie resident and have no problem with this proposal. More public housing is needed across the ACT.

mtgav mtgav 10:58 am 15 Sep 20

This is a problem of political manoeuvre.

Over the last few years, the government has orchestrated legislative changes to allow these developments to go through with minimal or no community consultation. They will explain that it is “legal”; but this is precisely because they changed the law.

In December 2015, the government quietly pushed through a “technical amendment” to allow supportive housing developments to be built on community facility zone (CFZ) land without much consultation.

In 2017, residents from Mawson, Holder, Chapman and elsewhere petitioned the Assembly and their concerns were debated. All MLAs agreed that affordable, public, renewal and supportive housing was an imperative. Labor representatives sought to reduce the debate to the merits of public housing rather than community zoning and consultation.

Greens MLA, Caroline Le Couteur called this amendment a, “loophole where community engagement has become at best less open and transparent than it should be and at worst non-existent” (Assembly of the ACT, Hansard, 10 May 2017, p. 1519).

Liberal MLA, Nicole Lawder put forward a motion on the issue. Drawing upon heavily redacted FOI material indicating that the government planners fully anticipated a need to quell “community objection”, she alleged that the amendment was not designed to clarify the language but to fundamentally, “change the substance and the intent of the Territory Plan” (ibid, 1525). Lawder’s motion was eloquent and clear.

“We ask the government to explain to ACT residents why CFZ land is being used for residential purposes when community facility zoned land is quite clearly intended for things… It is not intended for industrial or residential uses. Quite clearly many people want to understand why this land is being used rather than residential zoned land” (ibid:1527 ).

Her motion was defeated 13:10

We are still asking these questions, and they are not listening.

Risible2 Risible2 9:17 am 11 Sep 20

The main problem with this pattern of identifying community-zoned land for community residential use is that it inevitably results in an almost total loss of trees and other green cover. The plans for this site suggest that the two buildings and car park will cover the majority of the land surface, putting it in conflict with the existing park. Despite lip service about the need to maintain a green environment, this government is hell bent on creating a concrete jungle to maximise revenue.

seafix seafix 7:27 pm 08 Sep 20

If the YWCA is looking for a more convenient residential site for its prospective tenants there are 5 blocks on Cowper St Dickson with an area totalling 3379m2. The willing sellers are asking $5200000 or $1538m2.
The area is zoned RZ3 and allows 2 storey apartment or townhouse living with a plot ration of 65%. The zone objectives ‘provide opportunities for redevelopment by enabling changes to the original pattern of subdivision and the density of development’. In contrast, an objective for Community Facilities Zoned land is ‘to safeguard the amenity of surrounding residential areas against unacceptable adverse impacts including from traffic, parking, noise or loss of privacy’.
Subject to development controls, an architect could squeeze well over 16 units on to these amalgamated blocks. This site is a perfect alternative to the demolition of the preschool building in Bill Pye Park Ainslie. If this project is not about being given free public land, be a good neighbour and give Peter Andrighetto a call.
Give Community Facilities Land Back. We love Ainslie

Rainer Busacker Rainer Busacker 8:09 pm 07 Sep 20

Another money grab by this government. Selling off irreplaceable assets for a few dollar. Shame, shame and more shame. Soon we will be a concrete jungle with no green spaces. Houses on large blocks are being knocked down and the rebuilds take up most of the block.

    John Ryan John Ryan 4:52 pm 16 Sep 20

    A "money grab"? Are you kidding me? They're letting the YWCA build a social housing development and paying for it.

    This will house disadvantaged Canberrans who might otherwise be sleeping on streets.

    It's the exact opposite of a money grab.

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