Building height restrictions under review

GnT 9 September 2007 43

Unlike other cities, Canberra’s skyscape is lacking those super tall skyscrapers typical of bigger cities. We have had laws since the 70s restricting the height of new buildings to no higher than the Australian War Memorial or Parliament House. However some developers want this restriction lifted to encourage more higher density living in the city, following the advice of a Canadian expert.

Of course there are many voices saying it will damage Canberra’s character and compromise the ‘Griffin Legacy’.

By the way, has anyone ever lived in Vancouver, the “world’s most livable city”?

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43 Responses to Building height restrictions under review
Gungahlin Al Gungahlin Al 2:33 pm 12 Sep 07

Noodle: as I do live near Gungahlin, you could then assume that like everyone else almost out there I have to communte out daily, and you’d be right. All the same re: the car required to do the double drop-off etc. Which is why I can say that (although there may be an issue with parking in City West near the Uni et al) there is no “parking crisis” in the rest of Civic. Now Woden – there’s a problem for you – around the northern end anyway.

On the cost of living here – I agree wholeheartedly. The cost of living here is stunning, and not all the Government’s fault either. Businesses in Canberra are pricing everyone beyond their means. It’s the one thing that would drive us away again…

On buildings, your opinions and mine differ a bit, but that’s what this debate is about. Seems to be running 50-50-ish so far.

sepi sepi 1:41 pm 12 Sep 07

Local govt is actively contributing to the parking crisis in civic by selling off all the carparks and turning them into offices. But that’s a separate issue.

noodle noodle 1:24 pm 12 Sep 07

Gungahlin Al – I assume when you infer that people are talking up a crisis that doesn’t exist you’re referring to car parking (the other crisis in this town is the result of all the school closures, but that’s for another thread).

As you’re out in Gungahlin let me tell you there most certainly is a car parking crisis in Civic, and it’s getting worse. How do I know? Because I have to take my kids to a school two suburbs away from where I live and then get to work in Civic. I rely on my car because there are no other options. I am beyond understanding – when this issue has been talked about for years – why the local government doesn’t too something about it. Are they blind? Or do they simply, really not care?

The reason so much business is going on is because of huge public service growth. They’re the people going into all the new buildings. And already some of those buildings are already too small!

I don’t get the impression at all, from talking to friends and family in small business, that there’s actually much business confidence here. Payroll tax, rates and business taxes and so on which are applied to business here are horrific. I know several people who are relocating to Queanbeyan, and even Sydney. But again the local government don’t care and don’t do anything about it because they’re propped up by the boom at the Federal level, so believe they can afford to ignore it.

As to the issue of increasing heights on buildings – in the right locations such as Civic – I’m all for it. Josh and others expressed the benefits far more eloquently than I can.

Yes, I like our suburbs, and the easy access to the bush. It’s a great lifestyle for our family. But I wish that Canberra could be something more. I wish we could be a city. I grew up here in the 70’s and remember how lifeless the place was. I remember many people who thought it was a hardship posting if you had to come here, and couldn’t wait to get out. I see the changes that have happened in Kingston and Manuka and I welcome them.

Buildings, of themselves, don’t add ‘life’. But some taller buildings could look great. I’d love to see some taller, slimmer buildings in preference to some of the huge squat monstrosities we’ve got round the place which you can’t see past or around anyway, so I don’t know what people are talking about when they suggest that its tall buildings that blot out the view. And I haven’t BTW seen anyone suggesting that we should have huge canyons of skyscrapers. A few here and there, would be very attractive. There wouldn’t need to be wind tunnels if planners were thoughtful about this.

I want my kids to stay here. These are all over-used words, but I believe if the city was more “vibrant”, then they might.

So, yes, I feel strongly about this too. I’ll be happy to sign chris_underscore’s petition.

Maelinar Maelinar 12:56 pm 12 Sep 07

I wanna be pork barrelled with free stuff, and then I’ll support high level developments *hint hint*

My wishlist (per storey)

10+ mp Digital Camera (with a recognisable brandname) – applies to all products
Digital LCD Telly with a 3 digit screen size
Tablet PC integrated work hubs – in social areas
Boat and marina berth at JB

That’s 6 storeys, resultant in a 9 storey complex, and a whole heap of happy canberrans.

Actually, the tablet pc idea is far too practical to ever be considered outside a bladerunner fantasy.

Thumper Thumper 11:24 am 12 Sep 07

I’m with Miz on this score.

Last thing I want to see in canberra is bloody eyesore skyscrapers.

Leave them to Dubai…

Gungahlin Al Gungahlin Al 11:09 am 12 Sep 07

Josh, if Canberra is not already attractive to investors and business, just why is it we have so much investing and business going into the place?

Talking up a crisis that doesn’t actually exist is what the PCA specialise in – are your dues paid up?

The key thing that attracted me back to Canberra is the lower density and satellite city concept (albeit screwed up in the cases of Tuggers and Gungahlin, but I’m working on the latter), separated by green buffers and unadulterated hillsides.

As I said previously there is at least 30 years worth of development potential in Civic alone, not to mention the other town centres. So why exactly do we need height relaxations???

sepi sepi 10:35 am 12 Sep 07

I don’t really have anything against sky scrapers – I mean the size of buildings already in Civic have managed to block out the view of Black Mountain anyway, so what’s to lose.

But I don’t see the point of rushing into it. Do we really need them. I don’t see that a skyscraper makes a city bustling and exciting. That happens more at street level. And in chilly Canberra, the last thing we need is to block out the sun from the streets.

I actually think Civcic could be vastly improved and more people would go there if Garema place was jazzed up a bit, and the Civic interchange was demolished and started again.

And introduce a bit more parking. Garema place is now the preserve of derros, cos noone else can park anywhere near it.

Maelinar Maelinar 8:50 am 12 Sep 07

From a SES point of view, you lot are talking a whole heap of ill-informed bull$hit.

Canberra IS a high velocity wind area already. I know because I get to be one of the lucky guys on the roof after it happens.

Paticularly and intriguingly, Canberra can have up to 300 tornados annually – not the american kind, but the kind that will lift a roof up a foot and then dump it back down on the house frame.

Then there’s the fact the soil is so clay-based in Canberra that trees do not root downwards. Stong wind = several dozen trees collapse. Most usually onto a building.

Building a massive structure in Canberra would require extensive reinforcing. Frankly I don’t have faith in a construction industry that can build a structure in under a year (PM&C building for example) and hold their hands over their hearts and say that the building has structural integrity.

So its not just the mutton-heads who think living should be done on one level holding up development.

Josh1231 Josh1231 11:30 pm 11 Sep 07


Canberra has a population of 330,000 with queanbeyan 35,000. Not exactly small. Dont know what you define Bungendore as?

Anyway, who cares what the population is. Some people have a vision to turn Canberra into something other than a city that saps up billions of dollars in public monies. Im sure we can pay the rest of our citizens back by having a beautiful city even more beautful by creating an environment that is attractive to investors/business and not just public service.

Your Bush capital is dying off anyway buddie, maybe if you didn’t drive your car so much commuting 30 minutes in your wifes Pajero from Banks we wouldn’t have to spend all our money cutting down all our dead trees that are becoming increasingly common in Canberra from your CO2 exhaust coming from your gas guzzler!

The way to do this is creating an inetersting, bustling CBD for the workers who live in the area. Highrises within reason are the perfect way of doing this.

Sydney was a small county town a long long time ago, as was melbourne, but there was a trigger which transformed these places in to what they are today.

I hope for your sake we all arnt dead before we realise the potential we have to make what we have awesome! Mate if you dont like it move to Murrumbateman, but the time has come for Canberra to live up to its potential and push aside the doubters. The doubters have been around for 30 years. Finally some people have thought, no screw this I am gonna say what I WANT.

Leave your conservative views for the scrapheap, cos the world is not gonna slow down. The time is now!!

Lets get a kick ass CBD with some beautiful towers that will be the envy of other cities. And yes some people in here probalby do have tower envy! But you know what I say good on them and go for it!

Gimmie a WOO YEAH!

jemmy jemmy 10:30 pm 11 Sep 07

The other capital cities are not distinct in the way we are talking, they are distinct only because of geography: harbour, bay, river, that impacts lifestyle, nothing to do with towers. Apart from that, their CBDs are clones: sunless wind tunnels of glass towers in noisy streets. When was the last time you saw sun in George St Sydney?

All this talk of we have to have it, why can’t we be like other CBDs, Dubaii(?? wtf, is there oil under Canberra to pay for it?), land shortages, is uninformed. There is no land shortage, there is a government restricted issue of land. Instantly solved by rezoning the entire ACT to residential and business. Instant land for everyone. There is no population pressure, there is no business to fill the towers (PS doesn’t count, they don’t need to be CBD).

Canberra is a small country town. Fact. Deal with it. It’s not a major player in any stakes and never will be, it’s too far off the beaten track that runs Syd-Melb. Even Brisbane with 5 times the population and trunk air routes isn’t a major business centre, so why do we think we can be. It’s business that drives a CBD (obviously) and without thousands of businesses feeding off each other, you don’t get the critical mass to drive a CBD. We don’t have a CBD, we have a centrally-located enclave that is just like Woden and Belconnen.

I strongly suspect you who are pushing for it have some sort of tower envy, “they have it, why can’t we have it” sort of thing, and have never actually worked there and had to put up with the downside.

I can only repeat: enjoy the difference! Celebrate our city! It’s great, I love it, I moved here FFS. I love the view across the lake, I don’t have penis envy for glass towers, and I don’t care to be artificially shoved cheek-by-jowl into tiny ticky tacky boxes when I can be surrounded by open space and bush.

That was going to be it, but I can’t avoid this extra as I disappear for a few days and won’t be able to reply: are you seriously suggesting we trust the same politicians who put in planning disasters like Gungahlin to implement something that will have such a major, major impact on the whole visual aspect of Canberra? Even if you guys are right and I’m wrong, I’d still rather wait a decade or two until our political system evolves to the stage that we have proper politicians and not town councillors, ones who know how to plan and how to implement for the long term.

Josh1231 Josh1231 9:58 pm 11 Sep 07

Wind tunnels haha. If wind tunnels were such an issue then people would be flocking from every other Australian city to reside in Canberra to escape their “dreaded wind tunnels”. Sorry to break it to you but I don’t think people give a flying farry.

chris_underscore chris_underscore 9:40 pm 11 Sep 07

Oh no a little bit of wind, have a cry! That is everyones excuse, wind tunnels this wind tunnels that.

sepi sepi 9:26 pm 11 Sep 07

Yeah – we need more permanently shaded out wind tunnels like the area around Lovett (MLC) Tower.

Josh1231 Josh1231 9:08 pm 11 Sep 07

Rasing these height limits is practical. Companies/public sector environments prefer all accomodation to be housed within the 1 building. This is a perfect solution. This will also allieviate such huge dependants on the car if we can live and work in the city which will allow walking to work.

Obesity crisis-SOLVED
Environmental crisis-SOLVED
Parking crisis-SOLVED
greater CBD investment and ACT goverment revenvues-SOLVED
People who complain about height limits in CBD who never actually ever go to the city anyway-NOT SOLVED

chris_underscore chris_underscore 8:48 pm 11 Sep 07

If someone creates a petition against relaxing the height limits, I will probs create a petition for relaxing height limits. It’s the 21st century, we need to evolve. Hell, even paris is building higher (New 317 metre tower)

noodle noodle 8:46 pm 11 Sep 07

Well said Josh1231!

Canberra IS a capital city. Canberra IS also the nation’s capital.

Jemmy, we don’t need a clone of the other capital cities. But having been to most of them, I’d say that they’re all pretty distinct, and that should be celebrated. Brisbane is definitely very different to Sydney, and Sydney to Melbourne etc.

We’ve got a great opportunity here to create the sort of city we all want to live in. Increasing density and height in the CBD will help define it. We CAN have a liveable city. But we can also continue to enjoy the bush capital, in our suburbs and rural areas.

We certainly don’t need to be Dubai. But the point’s valid. We can be ourselves. I say, go for it.

chris_underscore chris_underscore 8:44 pm 11 Sep 07

Hey Jemmy we live in the ‘real world’ where population grows and also many new offices are opening up in the city, I don’t understand this ‘Green city’ crap, when 90% of people use cars to get everywhere. We need more density in the city, and with the land shortages, the only way is to build higher, do you really think a 100m building is that bad?

Josh1231 Josh1231 8:38 pm 11 Sep 07

Lets get with the times. This has to happen. This is a brilliant opportunity for all of us to get behind these ideas and support them. Canberra has the opportunity to be a premier city.

Canberra needs density which includes height.

Canberra has a 93 meter skyscraper in suburban Woden way higher anything in the city. So I find it hard to justify restricting height limit in the CBD to under that.

Lets rally behind this and encourage Canberra to grow. As it stands Canberra has a poorly defined city a beautiful sskyline of decent height 120-150 meters would look spectacular.

Stuff the Griffen Legacy. This guy wasn’t even Australian, who cares, lets do what WE want. Lets encourage adjustments to this legacy. Make it a kick ass mordern legacy.

Hence the reason why cities such as Dubai are so successful. People that say we can do it often do. Dubai started at nothing, now look at it. I wonder what would have happened if a city like Dubai said “oh we better not”. or “thats too risky”. they would probably still living in third world conditions.

Queanbeyan has a more defined Central area than Canberra does, and you know what thats depressing. Lets make a change starting from today and have a city to be proud of. As it stands we are not proud of ur city centre, evidence of this is the desterted, dirty state of our CBD today!

NCA I applaud you! You have finally grown some guts over the past 12 months.

jemmy jemmy 8:33 pm 11 Sep 07

Mass urban sprawl, give me a break. You have no idea what mass urban sprawl is. I can drive from Gungahlin to Tugerranong (one end of Canberra to the other) in 30 min. Try that in Melbourne!

Here’s a clue: remove the restriction on building on hill sides, and double the available land! Sure, it’s not egalitarian, but it reduces the urban sprawl.

The reason public transport doesn’t work here is because of the insistence on building in enclaves, so going within an enclave is easy, going between non-adjoining enclaves is hard.

Anyway, back on topic, why do you want a CBD? Why the assumption it’s needed or wanted? Canberra will never, ever have a “business” centre, it’s just not needed, nor will be until the population gets to around the 1M mark. So the rest of “old fashion views” and “revitalise” smacks of Sydney/Melb envy to me. If you really want that, you move there, instead of telling me to move to Braidwood.

For fark’s sake, we have six perfectly good capital cites that are all clones of each other. You people who want that, move there! I really like Canberra’s difference and will fight to preserve it.

barney barney 7:56 pm 11 Sep 07

I don’t know where all this “DON’T BUILD HIGHER THAN THE WAR MEMORIAL” crap came about. Utter illogical rubbish. We live in a REAL WORLD. Some people have a problem realising that particular fact.

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