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.
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.