The Giralang shops saga has taken a new twist with an Assembly committee calling on the government to intervene, and even recommending that it ask if the current owner would consider surrendering the lease.
Owner Nikias Diamond has had to put the shop’s redevelopment on hold because it cannot finance the project without securing an anchor supermarket tenant.
This is but the latest in a long series of false starts and delays over the past 15 years, most of which have been beyond the control of the owner, including a lengthy court battle.
Planning and Land Management Minister Mick Gentleman called in the fifth development application for the site in July 2018. However, it remains a fenced-off eyesore amid growing anger in the community, not just about the shops, but also the associated public infrastructure promised as part of the overall development.
A community petition lodged with the Assembly was referred to the Standing Committee on Planning, Transport, and City Services earlier in the year, which has now tabled an interim report.
The sticking point had been the 1000 square metre limit to the supermarket, but a change in the planning rules last May to raise that to 1500 square metres had renewed hopes that there would, at last, be interest from the leading retail chains.
Only last month Nikias Diamond director Dimitri Nikias had said that a “different national chain” was assessing the site and “hopefully we will have a supermarket there up and running within the short term”.
But the committee has found that the owner has not been able to confirm a tangible plan or timeline for how or when it will deliver the shops development.
It says the community has lost confidence in the developer to deliver the project and is now looking to the government to take a more active role.
The committee has made a number of recommendations designed to kickstart progress on the proposal, including government intervention.
It says that if Nikias Diamond does not wish to surrender the lease, the owner should have to join with the government and outline steps it will take to progress the development and a timeframe.
This should be done through a Memorandum of Understanding that also includes members of the community, and be made publicly available and finalised no later than 30 June 2022.
The committee wants the government to write to Harris Farm Supermarkets, Woolworths, Aldi and IGA asking if they would consider taking up the tenancy in Giralang.
It says that if construction has not recommenced by 30 June 2022 then the MoU should include a clear and enforceable plan for temporary land use at the site so that the public “can access and benefit from the social benefit intended from the zoning”.
It also recommended the owner outline how it will tidy and secure the site to the satisfaction of the community.
The Nikias family has been connected to the site since 1975 and Nikias Diamond says it remains committed to the $19 million development proposal that also includes mixed-use ground floor spaces, basement parking and 50 apartments over four levels.
But Mr Nikias has also said that it may require a new development proposal.
The committee believes that the current development approval could be amended to allow a larger supermarket and construction to begin within the timeframes of the current approvals, but it says there needs to be greater transparency and accountability from all parties for the development to progress.
But Mr Gentleman rejected the committee’s recommendation for government action, saying it could lead to further lengthy delays, leaving the Giralang community without their shops for years.
“I have used all the powers available to me to ensure there was no regulatory delay in developing the shops. This includes calling in the project in 2018 and more recently increasing the size of supermarkets in local shops,” he said.
“My main priority for Giralang is to ensure shops are delivered as soon as possible. The best course of action is for the developer to use the current development approvals and build the shops.”
Committee chair Jo Clay (Greens) said the committee had recommended a further update on the progress of the Giralang shops development be provided to it by July 2022.
“We intend to finalise this inquiry with a view to updating the community on the progress of the development of the site in mid-2022,” she said.