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.
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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.