27 June 2023

Community association gutted by Brindabella Christian College car park 'decision'

| Ian Bushnell
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Brindabella Christian College car park

The Brindabella Christian College car park is supposed to be a public car park: Photo: Region.

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.

children crossing outside Brindabella Chrisitan College

The car park driveway in February. A green strip laid to make it safer does not seem to be working. Photo: Kate Bradney.

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.

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great! now that anything goes there as far as planning is concerned maybe I’ll go and build a very DIY high ropes obstacle course

Isn’t this a provision the Government sought to repeal in the new Planning Bill so pesky citizens couldn’t call out the Access Canberra’s failure to administer the laws appropriately. Well, looks like they have found another way to avoid taking any action.

Amanda Kiley7:29 pm 27 Jun 23

Surprise, surprise. Planning needs an overhaul. Or maybe rhey dragged their feet on purpose …

Interesting. In some other parts of the planning legislation if an entity does not provide advice in the statutory period it is assumed to not object. This situation seems to be the reverse so all the government has to do is to drag its feet and those pesky community groups can be sidelined. Surelyit is the ressponsibility of the government to process a Controlled Activity Order in the time frame or to seek an extension if this is not possible?

Stephen Saunders1:33 pm 27 Jun 23

What the? Have they been taking lessons, from planning log-roller extraordinaire, NCA Sally Barnes?

But I deny the crass rumour, that the medieval-cross mafia, might have a friendly insider.

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