10 May 2021

Call to suspend Gungahlin Town Centre land sales until planning concerns addressed

| Ian Bushnell
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Planning and Land Management Minister Mick Gentleman

Planning and Land Management Minister Mick Gentleman fronting Committee Hearings. The Gungahlin Community Council says it’s time he fronted the community. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

Gungahlin Community Council has called for the sale of further land within the Gungahlin Town Centre to be suspended out of frustration that concerns about more balanced development there continues to be ignored.

In letters on Tuesday (27 April) to the Minister for Planning and Land Management Mick Gentleman and the CEO of the Suburban Land Agency, the GCC says that a recent meeting attended by Chief Planner Ben Ponton had failed to address these concerns and had in fact raised even more questions.

It comes after the SLA released four mixed-use blocks in the Town Centre with a capacity for a total of 454 units, adding even more residential development when the community is crying out for more retail and commercial space that will provide services and employment.

In February, Labor MLA for Yerrabi Suzanne Orr successfully moved a motion in the Legislative Assembly, with Green and Liberal amendments, aimed at getting the ACT Government to pull more policy levers to achieve more balanced development and job creation in the Town Centre.

Now, the GCC wants no more land sold until all the recommendations of the Gungahlin Town Centre Planning Refresh Community Engagement Report are addressed, Draft Variation 364 has been reviewed by the Standing Committee on Planning, and the Assembly motion has been actioned.

GCC President Peter Elford told Region Media that the community cannot see how its Town Centre will provide the sorts of things on offer elsewhere in Canberra and be a destination and jobs centre for the Gungahlin area.

At present, it seems to be dysfunctional, he said.

He said DV364, which had been allowed to lapse, was a train wreck, and the government did not appear to have a plan for the development of the Town Centre other than more mixed-use sites, which were in effect apartment blocks with a cafe on the ground floor.

“There’s so much uncertainty, so much frustration from residents not seeing the Town Centre come together like they expected,” Mr Elford said.

Gungahlin mixed-use site

The latest mixed-use site released for sale. Image: SLA.

He said restrictive planning rules were limiting developers’ options, but the planning review outcome that was supposed to provide more flexibility was still a couple of years away.

“We’re building the Town Centre right now, what the rules are in two years’ time is not going to help us,” Mr Elford said

Mr Elford called on the government to use the planning tools already at its disposal to provide incentives for commercial and retail developers, pointing to the peppercorn rent given to the UNSW Canberra to develop its new campus in Reid.

He said that with blocks going to auction instead of tender, it appeared the priority was getting the highest price possible, not achieving better planning outcomes.

Mr Gentleman has said he will respond to the Assembly motion by 2 December, the last sitting day of 2021, but Mr Elford said this was an unacceptably long delay and “just woeful”.

He said government had failed to acknowledge the concerns captured in the 2018 Refresh, which had focused on public and green spaces, amenity, quality development and walking and cycling routes.

Mr Elford wants the Minister to explain what had happened to DV364, which was developed in response to the Refresh.

The Minister had again been invited to the 9 June GCC meeting, and Mr Elford hopes he will accept this time instead of sending his bureaucrats, or find another time to talk to the Gungahlin community.

An e-Petition calling for the suspension of land sales at the Gungahlin Town Centre can be found here.

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This needs to be an election issue. The ACT Government has sat on their hands and left their heads in the sand for far too long.

Each time folks have tried to engage Minister Barr or his colleagues on the issue of Gungahlin planning, there’s been dead silence or deflection. Even the much vaunted light rail implementation was half-arsed.

Gungahlin has the demographic and density to make the town centre into a vibrant and productive cultural hotspot, but it’s sadly let down by a short-sighted, money-driven, incompetent, pump-and-dump planning authority who clearly has no regard for the wellbeing and best possible outcomes for the people of Gungahlin.

Just look at the compromised and woefully inadequate mess they made of the Gungahlin cinema development, and the constant perpetual chokepoints in and around the town-centre. The massive appartments towards the west are an eyesore and bereft of any creative process — lazy copy and paste jobs from Sydney and Melbourne and god knows where else.

Suburbs such as Moncrieff and Taylor still don’t have any sign of shops, and the Gungahlin police station is slightly larger than my shed. How the ALP and ACT Planning have gotten away with this negligent and amateurish effort in Gungahlin (and Woden and Tuggeranong) for so long without significant backlash from the electorates, and being challenged by the LNP and other parties, is beyond me.

Elizabeth Lee, if you or anyone from your party is reading this, then challenging government on this issue and coming up with solutions to address it, is how you win the next election.

Might be because most people understand the roll of government and the roll of developers.

Take the cinema for example it is a private development and has been delayed due to issue with the developer. The government isn’t in the business of building cinemas it does however zone land to allow private enterprise to do that which is exactly what happened.

Likewise shops yes government has t related land in Moncreif or Taylor, but it has been set aside and both chose suburbs are currently well served by shops at Amaroo, Bonner and Casey. Another major supermarket is not needed, though a smaller one will be when Taylor gets gets more homes. It’s currently only 1/4 built.

HiddenDragon7:39 pm 28 Apr 21

“….the government did not appear to have a plan for the development of the Town Centre other than more mixed-use sites, which were in effect apartment blocks with a cafe on the ground floor.”

So interesting to compare this reality with the light rail hype for Gungahlin –

“The LRT project is a bold and visionary step toward diversifying the Canberra economy; one in which workers will be less reliant on the vagaries of public service employment policies. A successful project will see the Canberra economy expand and diversify as knowledge workers move into the attractive, connected and convenient Gungahlin corridor, and less skilled workers follow to provide support services (e.g. restaurants, entertainment and other services) for the new knowledge economy.”

https://unionsact.org.au/independent-assessment-of-light-rail-jobs-figures-supports-3500-number/ – 03/08/2015

Gaz from Throsby1:59 pm 28 Apr 21

I’m only new to Gunghalin, but it seems to me that there needs to be a better traffic management plan. In my short time I have seen traffic jams caused by drive thru restaurants Mecca’s and KFC, and I have been gridlocked inside the Woolworths car park.

One of the biggest problems I can think of for Gungahlin is parking, accessibility, and traffic flow, including for freight traffic. These are issues that affect business, productivity and convenience for Gungahlin. It’s not a great planning example, especially being in the national capital. The infrastructure was not built in accordance with future growth. It’s a shame and should be fixed because it’s a lovely place with great people, with people coming in daily to visit from other parts of ACT, regional NSW and elsewhere.

This is another example of why the planning system in the ACT needs to change. Will the current review of the planning system result in a system that avoids problems like this?

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