25 January 2019

Community saddles up again as Geocon fights WOVA conditions

| Ian Bushnell
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The WOVA site in Phillip. The development, consisting of four buildings and 800 apartments, has been controversial from the start. File photo.

It was hailed as a victory for the community but celebrations for the scaling back of Geocon’s massive WOVA development in Woden may have been shortlived.

Woden Valley Community Council is again having to rally the troops to lobby the planning authority after Geocon sought to reverse conditions imposed when the four-tower development on the former Tradies site was approved last September.

The Planning and Land Authority approved four residential towers (12,12,16 and 24 storeys) and 800 apartments on the corner of Melrose Drive and Launceston Street.

Geocon has transferred the proposed 24-storey marker building fronting Melrose Drive to Furzer Street, but the approval was conditional on reducing the scale of the Melrose Drive building even further, from 16 storeys to 12 storeys, and for the upper levels to be terraced.

Concerns had focused on potential overshadowing of the Bellerive Retirement Village on Melrose Drive and the sheer size of the development.

But Geocon is now contesting that condition arguing that increasing the building in height from 12 to 16 storeys will reduce the visual bulk, enhance the architectural expression and identity and increase clarity of the entrance and wayfinding.

Among other conditions, the façades and landscaping also needed to be improved.

WVCC is pushing for the reduced building height be retained to limit overshadowing, saying this aligns with the Woden Town Centre Master Plan to allow better solar access to the western side of Melrose Drive, where Bellerive Retirement Village is located.

A Geocon perspective drawing of the development. WVCC says it is ambiguous in regard to the buildings’ relative bulk and scale, particularly the 24-storey building. Image: Supplied.

It is also concerned that a façade be delivered that is befitting of a marker building that will stand for decades to come.

WVCC says that with more than half of the 800 apartments to be only one-bedroom and about 50 square metres in size, the project does little to attract families to the area. Only 4 per cent are three-bedrooms.

WVCC president Fiona Carrick said the development had the potential to be like a dormitory and the Government should ensure these developments were more socially sustainable and that it provided more social infrastructure.

“We don’t know what the long-term result of that is,” she said. “You get a suburb in the sky but there is little for the community.”

She called on the ACT Government to plan the Woden Town Centre precinct to include public green spaces and community facilities for the growing population living in the very high-density residential towers and the surrounding suburbs.

WVCC says that the Committee for Sydney’s 2016 Making Great Places Density Done Well paper discusses how higher density of around 600 people per hectare can unlock public spaces and allow the creation of communities with high public amenity.

WOVA has a density of 1570 people per hectare, based on two people per apartment.

A drawing of the original WOVA proposal, with the 24-storey building on Melrose Street.

WVCC is also concerned about the traffic issues the development will create, calling on the Government to ensure that residents can turn left and right on to Launceston Street from Irving and Furzer Streets.

Ms Carrick said the community welcomed development but wanted it done well and in a way that benefitted the community.

She said ongoing battles like WOVA were draining and exhausted the community.

“Some of the Bellerive residents are elderly, it’s not right that they be required to sustain this ongoing attention to the matter,” she said.


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I look at those two lumps in Gungahlin and there’s no expression of architecture to be seen. Geocon will win, Barr and Gentleman will see to that.

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