27 May 2020

Call to put West Basin proposal on hold until master plan released

| Ian Bushnell
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A future West Basin

A future West Basin, as depicted in the tender documents for a master plan. Image: ACT Government.

The next stage of work at West Basin should be put on hold until the community has a clear picture of what the ACT Government actually has in store for the key city lakeside area, according to the heritage group battling redevelopment plans.

The Lake Burley Griffin Guardians’ submission to the National Capital Authority on the City Renewal Authority’s Phase 2 plans to reclaim the lake bed and extend the boardwalk from Henry Rolland Park says the work should not be considered in isolation to the overall plan for a mixed-use urban precinct that may contain 2,000 apartments.

Fearing development creep, the Guardians say the proposed works need to be assessed in the context of the Indesco/Hames Sharley master plan due to be released this year.

The ACT Government contracted Hames Sharley last July to design the redevelopment of West Basin as a residential, business and recreational precinct. This included an overhaul of the road network, such as lowering Parkes Way, identifying a connecting road with London Circuit, a pedestrian path from Marcus Clarke Street, and any proposed land bridges.

The Guardians say the outcomes of the Indesco West Basin Plan Review and the Hames Sharley Master Plan should be included in a new works application for Phase 2. That master plan should also have to be approved by the National Capital Design Review Panel and any commentary and conditions imposed made public.

The submission reaffirms the Guardians’ opposition to the waterfront proposal and any apartment development but calls on the government to conduct an international competition to obtain a world-class design for public use of West Basin in collaboration with the Canberra community.

”We are not opposed to all development at West Basin but we believe there are compelling reasons for the NCA to reject the CRA’s works application outright, to require it to reveal all its plans for City to the Lake and to conduct an international design competition with community involvement rather than just continue the bland extension of Henry Rolland Park as a prelude to the apartment estate development planned for the area,” LBGG’s Juliet Ramsay said.

The Guardians also call for the NCA to facilitate the heritage listing of Lake Burley Griffin and its foreshores, a West Basin Heritage Management Plan be prepared and the ACT Government to refer the entire project, not just the foreshore works, to the Commonwealth under the EPBC Act, because of its likely impact on the heritage values of adjacent Commonwealth land.

They accuse the government of running down the area to help argue its case for redevelopment.

Henry Rolland Park

Henry Rolland Park looking toward the city. Phase 2 will extend the boardwalk 500 metres and reclaim some of the lake bed. Photo: ACT Government.

The Guardians see no viable solutions to major issues with the whole West Basin precinct, including how to overcome the barrier of Parkes Way, traffic management issues, the lack of design quality in Canberra apartment estates generally, and the ”now ever-diminishing public amenity” that was part of the original City to the Lake plan.

”Development of anything like the current known plans of the ACT Government would simply ‘lock-in’ an insipid hard-edged waterfront overlooked by mediocre, mixed residential/commercial buildings of 8 metres on the waterfront to 25 metres in the apartment estate,” the submission says.

The Guardians go on to detail what they see as serious shortcomings in Phase 2, which fails to meet the objectives of the West Basin Precinct Plan.

”The whole proposal is engineering-focused, with almost no consideration to environment, landscape, heritage or how real people will use the area,” the submission says

”Amazingly, the works approval application shows no commitment to designing for a more extreme climate (eg water sensitive urban design as required in the West Basin Precinct Code), no regard to the fauna that uses the existing riparian environment, no consideration of the impact on nearby residents, and no sensitivity for the lake’s heritage save for a dubious ‘marketing spin’ on the Griffin legacy.”

The submission says the proposed works do not meet the Precinct Code standard required for a ‘vibrant’ public waterfront (Objective 2) and for ‘environmental sustainability, including energy-efficient and water-sensitive urban design measures’ (Objective 11).

It says 120 trees will be removed and calls for two 18-metre ponderosa pines that complement the Grenfell Ruddock memorial in Acton Park to be preserved, as well as a group of river she-oaks.

The Guardians said community feedback that there should be a variety of water edges and better public places than the proposed ”tree nursery” behind the promenade has been ignored.

The 2006 Amendment 61 to the National Capital Plan allows for waterfront development at West Basin and the government argues its plans are merely giving long overdue effect to it.

But the Guardians describe the guidelines as ”loosely described criteria” and have fiercely contested its basis as part of the Griffin legacy.

They say there is significant community disquiet at the proposals, with more than a dozen organisations and individuals making submissions to the NCA, including the North Canberra and Inner South Canberra Community Councils, and the National Trust.

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nigefromfarrah12:37 pm 01 Jun 20

Constructing the city to lake project was a labour commitment at the 2016 election. They won, enough debate, get on with it.

Why is the RIOTACT becoming a mouthpiece for these so called guardians? This level of coverage is becoming slightly ridiculous. They are a tiny minority spouting laugh out loud nonsense. Let’s get on with the redevelopment and end this so called debate.

Genuine question: why should we pay attention to a self-appointed self-named group like the “Lake Burley Griffin Guardians”? If we do, the risk is we live in an idealised past version of what some people think Walter and Marion would have wanted (perhaps with a bit of NIMBY thrown in for good measure), instead of embracing our place as a growing 21st century city.

The answer is we shouldn’t.

They represent no one but themselves and their own views.

The amount of air time they are given is far in excess of what is deserved and far in excess of the actual amount of the community they supposedly represent.

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