22 March 2019

Community ignored again as West Basin push repeats development sins, say Guardians

| Ian Bushnell
Join the conversation

A possible City to the Lake future from the tender document.

Government plans to redevelop West Basin into a residential, business and recreational precinct are moving ahead with the City Renewal Authority seeking a consultant to devise a development plan for the key lakeside area.

The Authority has already flagged the possibility of 2000 apartments as part of a major reshaping of West Basin into a waterfront community connected to the city, and tender documents describe the area as ‘unique’ in terms of the Indicative Land Release Program and Government revenue opportunities.

The documents say the successful Place Planning and Urban Design Consultancy team (PPUDC) will be required to deliver a place plan, spatial master plan and urban design framework, that will contribute to the West Basin Review being led by Indesco Pty Limited, with which it will work in tandem.

But the tender details have drawn the ire of the Lake Burley Griffin Guardians, which view them as based purely on commercial priorities and as a rehash of proposals that will mean a loss of amenity and green space, environmental damage, and a rejection of the area’s heritage values.

The documents say the place plan will identify West Basin as a distinctive place within the context of Canberra city and as a desirable waterside community with places to live, work and play.

Described as a key ‘gateway’ to the Canberra CBD and ideally located at the Lake Burley Griffin waterfront, West Basin is seen as largely unrealised with surface car parks and under-utilised open space.

Unoccupied buildings on the site from previous businesses such as boat and bike hire will be demolished, and it is envisaged that under the National Capital Plan about 2.86 hectares of lake bed will be reclaimed to create a lake edge and support development of the proposed waterfront promenade.

Stage 1 of the waterfront project, comprising 150m of new lake wall, boardwalk and Henry Rolland Park has been completed.

The project will require an overhaul of road networks, including Parkes Way, and have to take into account plans for Light Rail stage 2.

The PPUDC will have to consider the lowering of Parkes Way, construction of West Road to connect with London Circuit, a pedestrian path from Marcus Clarke Street, and the extent of any proposed land bridges.

Light rail may restrict turning movements into, and out of, West Basin and also dictate the siting of intersections.

The project will also have to be approved by the National Capital Authority.

The documents say West Basin should be seen in connection to the surrounding areas of Acton, the National Museum of Australia, Australian National University, Civic and Commonwealth Park, as well as looking beyond the boundaries of the existing master plan.

Housing options should be examined including social, affordable and public housing, as well as building density, sustainability, transport and parking, streetscapes, commercial and retail opportunities, and community facilities.

But the Guardians say the Government is still looking to maximise residential development at the expense of open space and that the infilling of the lake to create a concrete lake edge to the extent of West Basin will have detrimental effects on habitat and water quality.

Juliet Ramsay said the Guardians supported a review of West Basin with community involvement but ‘we’re not getting that with this’.

She said the Authority appeared to be using out of date objectives of the National Capital Plan from 2006 and did not take into consideration the impact of climate change and the growing need for recreational green space as the city and Northbourne Avenue filled with new residential development.

She said the constraints identified by the Authority to do with bridging Parkes Way and traffic management issues would be almost insurmountable if it proceeded with development as envisaged.

The Guardians’ Facebook post says: “The document clearly indicates the proposal is based on commercial values and shows no respect for the lake and its lakeshore landscape. The proposal is still relying on the acquisition of 2.86 ha of lakebed, destroying the beaches, the parkland and wildlife habitat.”

They remain opposed to the privatisation of public space ‘which will be needed by future generations of Australians’.

The Guardians say any planning document should start with a set of principles based on the inherent values of West Basin — ‘that is its monumental vistas, its heritage, its landscape and recreation resource, its lake edge wildlife habitat, and its strategic location for the community and visitors’ – not ‘value-laden words and vague ideas’.

They say the area, which many believe has been allowed to run down, can be made vibrant without high density, mixed-use development.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

West Basin is a public space. If it is allowed to develop a residential and so called business area by the greedy labour government and commercial developers, This is invasion to public land and takes away basic access rights from the majority Canberrans. This area should a public relaxation and recreation area where underground carpark, children play, garden, picnic and BBQ should be built for the public.

Queanbeyanite3:49 pm 30 Mar 19

I can’t work it out, why would people who vote Greens oppose it? They voted for it?

I’m still go with the concept but disappointed that the obvious challenges that were pointed at the time this was first proposed have not been answered. Parkes Way and to a lesser extent, Northbourne Avenue, not only cut off the development area but also force it to fit too much into a confined space. Service roads, bike paths, lake edge facilities etc. Solve the big road issues and I think you have the route to a more coherent and purposeful extension of the city centre.

Went to Kingston Foreshore recently with visitors to Canberra. It’s ugly, overcrowded and uninspiring. Most people who go there do so for the glassworks and market, not the lake shore, architecture or cafes, many of which were closed. The lake water was putrid.

Went on the lake cruise so got to see the apartments from the lake and, on a very nice sunny day, did not see a single individual out on any of the hundreds of balconies.

And by the way, open spaces are by definition underused. If you like crowded spaces where you see the same people all the time then this kind of development is for you, but then it really could be anywhere because for that lifestyle the lake is irrelevant.

One of the failings of our city is that the lack of local government gives rise to organisations like the Guardians, Community Councils. They pretend to speak for us, but I don’t know who they are, I didn’t vote for them.

I went for a walk to Kingston the other night and I think it looks great. Maybe I am a philistine, (I also like the tram). I remember what Kingston swamp/foreshore used to look like. The lake has plenty of plain windswept grass spaces, but some buildings and life would add to the amenity.

Those who have followed “Lake Burley Griffin Guardians” know they do not stand for democratic community interests. They are a narrow-minded, NIMBY, anti-development, vested interest group. They want unused areas to remain unused. If the “Guardians” wish to speak on behalf of the community they should go out and get elected.

I want to clarify that the Lake Burley Griffin Guardians are not anti-development and we don’t want unused areas to remain unused. But we do want to keep West Basin park for the people of Canberra to enjoy and not have private apartments in this area. We would like to see this precious piece of land near the City Centre imaginatively landscaped for all to enjoy.

Penny, you know full well that the current plans for West Basin feature a 55-metre wide public waterfront promenade extending from Lawson Crescent to Albert Street. Why don’t the Lake Guardians just admit that their opposition to this project has nothing to do with public access to the lake shores, which will be protected even if this project proceeds, and everything to do with their own personal preference to see this area remain as an isolated pocket of informal man-made landscaping?

I think the reason that the Lake Guardians have consistently failed to gain any traction on this issue is because they fundamentally misunderstand how most Canberrans interact with West Basin. For the overwhelming majority of people who actually live here, it is nothing more than a place you pass by on the way to somewhere much nicer. If people want nice parklands, they have Commonwealth and Kings Parks. If people want nice vistas, they have Commonwealth Avenue Bridge and Mount Ainslie. If people want nice “beaches”, they have the other 98% of the Lake Burley Griffin. No one, apart from this small group of noisy “residents”, will actually miss any of the “values” listed here when West Basin is transformed into something that is actually appreciated and used by a far greater number of Canberrans.

Spot on Arjay.

While I always agree when people say development etc needs to be well considered and appropriately done (and many of the suggestions that we have seen are not that), I fail to truly comprehend what the massive outratge about West Basin is. Its one of the most underutilised parts of the City Centre – there is simply no significant use of the lakeside at that point.

If someone wants to come up with a wonderful proposal for how that area can be far better utilised than it is now that doesn’t involve massive development – then go for your life, and I’d be happy to support it.

But to suggest its some form of treasure that is going to be lost is a gross misrepresentation. A bit like the old ‘Dickson Parklands’, where there has been a concerted effort to derail development of a site well placed for medium density development.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.