24 August 2023

Braddon residents file objection to nine-storey apartment that would block sunlight

| Ian Bushnell
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Phoenix Apartments resident Richard Taylor lives on the fifth floor and says he will lose sunlight for at least all of winter if the proposed neighbouring apartment block is approved. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

Richard Taylor saved hard to buy a home in the Phoenix Apartments on Northbourne Avenue last year but is now facing losing his northern sunlight and potentially the value of his property.

Mr Taylor is one of about 40 Phoenix residents who will be overshadowed by a nine-storey apartment block being proposed to replace the ageing low-rise Elouera Street flats next door.

READ MORE Nine-storey Braddon apartment proposal overshadowing within rules, says proponent

Moruya-based developer Liebke and Co have lodged a development application for the 105-unit project to be built on a 2090-square-metre rectangular site at 90 Northbourne Avenue in Braddon (Block 1 Section 19).

But the Phoenix residents have filed objections to the proposal, saying it breaches multiple planning rules and is too big for the block, providing for just a 10-metre separation between the two buildings.

Community group the Braddon Collective is backing the residents and also preparing an objection.

The collective and the residents expected a multi-storey development on the block but not one that would completely overshadow the north face of the Phoenix building for all of winter and much of the year, and break so many planning rules.

They say the DA pushes the envelope across a range of requirements to squeeze as many units as possible onto the block.

Mr Taylor said the DA was littered with interpretations of the planning rules intended to circumvent the actual requirements.

“We feel there are all these rules that are supposed to protect the quality of housing in this neighbourhood that already provide decent compromises considering that we have to be high density here,” he said.

Diagrams showing the amount of sunlight the Phoenix Apartments will receive on the winter solstice. Shade is in blue. Image: Cox Architecture.

Mr Taylor said he did not expect to retain all his views, but the loss of sunlight for so much of the year should not be allowed.

He said that according to the Northbourne Avenue Corridor Precinct Code, two hours of sunlight was required during winter. However, the DA describes apartments receiving two hours for many days of the year when the overshadowing diagrams clearly showed that there would be zero solar access during winter.

This would be the case for 26 units in the new development, which would also require privacy screening in the form of a fixed louvre system.

“It’s not just us,” Mr Taylor said. “They’re producing apartments that people are not going to be able to see out of [and] that will get no sunlight. It’s not a reasonable outcome for the community.”

There are also fears that the excavation for the three-level basement car park, which they say encroaches on three sides, will threaten the structural integrity of the Phoenix building and pool.

“We’ve had two instances in Canberra in the last year where excavation of apartment complex basements have collapsed,” Mr Taylor said.

“In those cases it was people’s backyards so nobody was hurt, but in this case it would be the building that collapses.”

Mr Taylor said balconies were smaller than required, the building separation of 10 metres did not comply, and the length and height of the proposed building exceeded limits.

The Braddon Collective believes the proposed Elouera Street basement driveway is dangerously close to the Elouera Street/Mort Street roundabout and would create traffic issues and make the area less safe for pedestrians and cyclists.

apartment block

Artist’s impression of the apartment block proposed for 90 Northbourne Avenue Braddon. Image: Cox Architecture.

It is calling for six mature trees slated for removal to be protected, saying that less than half would be replaced and these would be five metres or less in height, and not planted in the original sites.

Liebke and Co Development Manager Nick Gray said the solar studies provided show the north-facing Phoenix apartments would receive sunlight for most of the year, but some would miss out in winter.

On the issue of the basement excavation, Mr Gray said work would extend to the boundaries but not encroach and that all appropriate steps were being taken to ensure there were no impacts to neighbours.

“We’ve got our structural engineers and geotechnical experts looking at it closely and will take all steps necessary to ensure that the basement is delivered in a safe way that won’t affect our neighbours,” he said.

Mr Gray said the driveway had been moved further to the middle of the site to lessen traffic concerns.

The six trees would have to go but the replacements planted on the Northbourne Avenue setback would be semi-mature stock that would grow to a quite large height and help “greenify” the corridor.

Mr Gray said the proposal was fully compliant and had already been amended quite a bit as a result of consultation.

“We feel that what we’ve put forward is an attractive development that will be a net gain for the area,” he said.

READ ALSO NCA must embrace higher density around Parliamentary Triangle, inquiry hears

But for Mr Taylor, the proposal would have a significant impact on his property and lifestyle, minor design changes would not be enough to make it acceptable and it should be refused.

“I’m a young person, I saved really hard to buy this place last year and if this goes ahead against the planning rules one of the side effects is this place will go down in value and because I’ve only just bought I may not be able to sell it and leave, it would bankrupt me,” he said.

If the DA is approved, objectors will not be able to take the matter to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal, but the proponent will be able to lodge a reconsideration with the planning authority.

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The Chief Planner in the ACT who is not an elected official but long time public servant and political appointment has visions of Canberra being skyscraper filled. He has said Canberrans are full of old ex public servants who lack vision. About time we not only boot out BarrLaborGreens embarrassment of a “Labor” party, but also this Chief Planner. Time for our citizens to rise up, use our vote and our voices in outrage, and install a new government. One that actually will listen to, respect and represent its citizens. That is NOT Barr and NOT LaborGreens who are a joke to labor party values.

Have some sympathy however buyer beware, the block next door has always permitted the level of development proposed, main party at fault here is the government authority that approved the existing development having that same knowledge, good example of poor urban planning., with ‘planning’ being the operative word here.

HiddenDragon6:45 pm 24 Aug 23

Welcome to the hard reality, rather than the waffly rhetoric, of Andrew Barr’s “gentle urbanism” – much more of this to come after the recent National Cabinet meeting where the Albanese government pushed state and territory governments for denser developments and even fewer rights for objections.

If the Canberra Liberals have an alternative to the proliferation of miserable, over-priced dwelling pods throughout the city, now would be a good time to share it with the Canberra public.


If it is wanted for people to build high star energy efficient housing then the solar access must be protected. And two hours is NOT enough. Often these houses get a high rating because they use the sun to heat them, avoiding much of the time needing to heat. We need energy efficient housing, but without guaranteed solar access, they could go from being very efficient to being very inefficient needed hours more of heating daily. Even non energy efficient housing if they have large windows on the north, will benefit from the sun, meaning less heating too.
All this talk of better housing, better insulation, facing the house correctly on the block, but with no or inadequate protection, it’s a cruel joke!

Nick Stevens5:51 am 24 Aug 23

Wow a nine storey building close to the city

Nick Stevens Blocking sunlight by new buildings also occurs way out in the suburbs too. So Wow! You offered no solution.
Maybe the solution in cases like this is to recognize this is near the city, but offer monetary compensation to the house holder to cover the extra cost their houses will now take to heat.

michael johns7:36 pm 23 Aug 23

It’s like this, if you look down the Northbourne ave corridor there is a clear pattern of high rise development across double blocks. There is a pattern 8 stories plus 4 stories on double blocks that are the same development. In fact the Phoenix is an example of this. The Phoenix 4 story side allow direct light to the Mantra on the south, this is extended to the Avenue. At James Court at Barry Drive they use their own setback to achieve direct light into their building. In this case 90 Northbourne is a single block maximising their foot print at the detriment of the apartments on the south. They have made no concession in their design to provide access to light, and have made up their own definition of “reasonable light” that has no standing in the planning rules. ie 2 hours direct sun on winter solstice.

The proposed development also places a wall facing open balconies on the Phoenix. There is no other location on the Northbourne corridor where open balconies face a wall 10 meters away. The reduction of amenity caused by this proposal is preposterous.

Further when you into account traffic light controls required for their own carpark, excavation to the boundary and it becomes clear that the development is pushing the envelope. There is no requirement to develop 8 stories on this site, 4 stories would be more in line with the existing streetscape of Northbourne. It would reduce the excavation required, it would reduce the shading impost on the phoenix. It would reduce the need for traffic light controls into their own car park and reduce the likelihood of Mort st congestion that is already apparent from the Midnight development (across the road from 92 Northbourne)

Put simply the 90 Northbourne proposal exceeds what can sensibly be put on the block.

Would this be considered a ‘good planning outcome’ under the new Planning Act? It will not allow residents to appeal a planning decision despite detrimental impacts. Densification needs to protect residents amenity, not make the area a worse place to live.

Stephen Saunders1:49 pm 23 Aug 23

Welcome to the future, Richard. Forty years ago, Australians had affordable housing, on one level. Forty years from now, we will be more than 40 million, and only the plutocrats will live in houses. The rest will have been thoroughly brainwashed, to love vertical living. This in a continent of 7.7 million km squared.

Good luck Richard Taylor! I am all for development but not to the detriment of neighbours.

Developers only need to allow for a minimum of two(2) hours of sunlight mid-winter, which is a joke.

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