Lyneham Community Association’s bid to force the ACT Government to act on what it argues is the illegal and unsafe Brindabella Christian College car park has hit a bureaucratic wall.
In a letter worthy of an episode of Yes, Minister, Access Canberra has refused the Association’s application for a controlled activity order because it was not able to process it in the statutory time frame.
Access Canberra said BCC had responded to its request to show cause why a controlled activity order should not be made, but the matter involved complex legal and factual issues which were being carefully considered.
But the statutory time of “20 business days after the end of the 10-working day period within which any response to the show cause notice was required to be given” had elapsed.
“For the purpose of informing its position, Access Canberra is presently seeking external advice. For these reasons, we have not been able to make a decision within the statutory timeframe,” the letter said.
“By operation of s 351(4) of the Planning and Development Act 2007, the application is taken to be refused if a decision on the application is not made before the end of the period prescribed by regulation.”
Association spokesperson Kate Bradney said the issue of the car park, which BCC built in 2016 on public land without approval and now operates as a sublease, had been known to the government for years, but it had shuffled papers and refused to make any decision.
The controlled activity order application was designed to force the government’s hand.
Ms Bradney said the letter was unbelievable and the Association was gutted by the decision.
“We’re shocked and saddened that a bunch of volunteers can’t rely on the government to take care of a piece of public land that they’re appointed custodians of,” she said.
“It shouldn’t have to fall on our shoulders.”
But Ms Bradney said the Association was planning to appeal the decision in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal and hoped to have the matter raised in the Legislative Assembly and had reached out to all party spokespeople.
She said going to ACAT was the only way of forcing the government to investigate and take responsibility for the car park issue because it had such a poor record of inaction.
Cryptically, Access Canberra said it would continue to consider the application.
But Ms Bradney was pessimistic about any realistic outcome.
“We don’t have a lot of faith in that because of the past times when they reassured us that they would investigate and FOIs show they didn’t,” she said.
“It’s not the first time they’ve said that.”
Mr Bradney said the car park set a worrying precedent for private organisations taking over public land and its driveway on Brigalow Street was an accident waiting to happen.
She said the government should acknowledge what had happened, revoke the sublease and find solutions.
In July last year, Transport Canberra and City Services said that the car park had evolved over time from users of the playing fields, claimed that it was exempt from a development application despite no apparent record of this, remained a public car park, despite signage and allotted spaces to BCC staff, and that it had granted a sublease over the public land for car parking ancillary to an outdoor sports facility.
But the outdoor sports facility, the subject of a DA in late 2014, was never built.
In 2018, the Association wrote to Minister for Sport and Recreation Minister Yvette Berry alleging the College had breached its sublease.
Planning and TCCS appeared to be at odds over the status of the car park, and a number of FOI requests had shown the issue had gone back and forth between and within agencies without any clear decision.