The Inner South Canberra Community Council has urged the ACT Government to stand by its own heritage requirements for the $78 million Kingston Arts Precinct development ahead of public consultation on the project.
The council has staked out the ground for upcoming talks with the government and the chosen developer Geocon, writing a letter to five Ministers and key Opposition MLAs that canvasses issues from heritage to traffic and parking to green space. It stresses the importance of the area’s heritage aspects and says all existing heritage structures should be integrated into the development.
The letter calls on Environment, Heritage and Planning Minister Mick Gentleman to confirm that requirements under the Heritage Register will be followed, including that the Power House remains the dominant feature of the Precinct and that any new buildings should be consistent with the architectural character of the area.
It further noted that any new construction should not adversely affect the landmark qualities of the Power House and Fitters’ Workshop, and significant visual links need to be retained between the Power House and East Basin and Bowen Park.
The heritage citation also requires that particular trees be conserved.
Council chair Marea Fatseas said the council wanted to highlight key issues early in the planning process to achieve a good outcome.
“We’re talking about things that aren’t just nice to have, they’re actually laid down in the heritage citation and covered by relevant legislation,” she said. “They are already determined to be significant and we’re just asking the Minister to confirm that he’s going to adhere to those heritage requirements.
“This is his opportunity to show that he will.”
Ms Fatseas said the same could be said for the 2013 Kingston Section 49 Masterplan, which Geocon had ignored in developing its concept plan, and which the government now only called a guide despite overseeing its creation.
“All we’re asking is for the government to adhere to what came up through its own community engagement process some years ago,” she said.
Ms Fatseas said the government has assured stakeholders of its commitment to genuine consultation and that it and the proponent wanted to get the development right.
“We prefer at this state to push for what we can get as the best outcomes and give the government full opportunity to live up to those high expectations, and next year is an election year,” she said.
At this stage there are a lot of question marks over the development, and it could go either way.
“It depends on how open the proponent is to actual government requirements on heritage,” Ms Fatseas said.
She said the Yarralumla Brickworks development consultation, in which Doma Group adopted a pro-heritage position from the outset and took on feedback, provided a good model for the Kingston project.
The council also wants Transport and City Services Minister Chris Steel to insist on a comprehensive, independent traffic study of the precinct due to concerns that overflow parking from events at Manuka Oval has not been taken into account.