The group battling the ACT Government’s plans for public housing in Chapman will take its fight to the Legislative Assembly today (Thursday 22 February) ahead of an imminent challenge to the development application approval in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT).
The approval on 15 February for 20 single-storey townhouses on community facility-zoned land on the corner of Darwinia Terrace, Kathner Street and Percy Crescent in Chapman has outraged the Darwinia Park Action Group.
It believes the Government has steamrolled all opposition to this and other outer suburban public housing developments, which will be used to rehome tenants from the inner city where public housing blocks have made way for urban renewal projects.
The decision came as new figures showed that there will be no new affordable, community, or public housing in the renewal sites in Braddon, Turner, Reid and Red Hill.
The Darwinia Park Action Group believes the Chapman decision has been a fait accomplis and its arguments ignored by a Government hell bent on the proposal.
The group has argued that the parkland site on the rural-urban fringe is bushfire prone and too far from services, with irregular public transport. It has also been scathing about the way the Government changed the zoning to allow public housing on community facility zoned land and conducted consultation with the community.
Group spokesperson Chris Braddick said that members would be in the Assembly today to hear Liberal MLA Giulia Jones quiz the Government in question time about the development.
He said the approval was deeply disappointing but unsurprising given the Chief Minister, Andrew Barr, and Deputy Chief Minister, Yvette Berry, had preempted the whole process by saying it would happen regardless.
Describing the approval process as slipshod, Mr Braddick said the consideration given to 81 detailed submissions was perfunctory at best.
He said the group had met with legal representatives and believed there were many serious issues that need to be properly and independently assessed and that the challenge would have to show that the Territory plan had not been followed.
“There are multiple ways in which this decision can be challenged,” Mr Braddick said. “There is no shortage of arguments, no shortage of solid evidence and expert evidence to support those arguments.”
Mr Braddick said the December 2015 variation to the Territory plan was made through a technical amendment, which meant it didn’t require debate in the Assembly and passed through ‘with no scrutiny whatsoever – the Opposition didn’t know about it, the media didn’t know about it, and the head of the Community Council didn’t know about it’.
“In theory, the process only allowed for technical amendments, things that clarify the meaning of terms in existing legislation,” he said.
“We believe there were very substantial changes made through that process and so for the first time, it was permitted to build residential accommodation on community facility zoned land. It was not the intention of the zone when originally created.”
Mr Braddick said the only reason the Government was trying to use this community facility zoned land was because they could get it for free and resolve the problem of where to house 1500 public housing tenants uprooted by the light rail-led urban renewal program.
“They were looking for a quick, cheap easy solution and their eyes fell upon community facility zoned land, of which there is a shortage in the ACT,” he said.
“The idea that you can plonk 20 families at the edge of Chapman, Rivett, and Duffy and hope that they’ll be all right, quite apart from bushfire risk, the idea that one bus an hour and less on weekends constitutes adequate provision is appalling.”
Weston Creek Community Council chair, Tom Anderson said that given the way the zoning was changed, the poor consultation process and the determination of the Government to get the deal done, the result was the best outcome the community could get.
“The result there is the best outcome you could get, 20 units down from 29, they’re duplex, one level, as best fit into that area,” Mr Anderson said.
But he still had concerns about the fire risk and the isolated location.
“It’s still in the line of fire and even though buildings have been approved at a very high fire risk deterrent level, there is still that concern that nature can do things, and it’s still in a fire-prone area,” he said.
“It’s located on the urban-rural fringe which is good in one respect but it means it is a long way from anywhere. 800m to Rivett shops, 1.8km to Chapman school and shops.”
Mr Anderson believed tenants would need to have a car to survive and live properly there, and not be reliant on public transport or walking or cycling.
“This one is just that bit far away from everything. I do worry about the people who are going to go in there,” he said.
Opponents have 28 days from the date of the decision to challenge the approval in the ACAT.
A meeting will be held at 3pm Sunday afternoon at Darwinia Park, Corner of Kathner Crescent and Darwinia Terrace.
Are you a Chapman resident? What are your thoughts on this issue? Comment below.