The proposed residential development of the North Curtin Horse Paddocks should take a low-impact approach with plenty of green space and apartments no higher than three storeys, a local community group will tell a public consultation now underway.
The ACT Government has earmarked the 13-hectare Territory portion of the horse paddocks carved off in the controversial land swap with the Commonwealth for medium-density development along Yarra Glen, a future light rail corridor.
The remainder of the horse paddocks will be a new diplomatic estate.
The ACT Government has contracted consultancy Communication Link to work with its agencies – particularly the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate and the National Capital Authority (NCA), which has planning control over the area – to run the consultation and provide a guide to future development.
Curtin Residents Association president Ian Elsum said the association had a clear view of what the area should look like, including a naturalised Yarralumla Creek, open recreation space on both sides of it with lots of trees, and a three-storey limit on housing.
“We want to see it done well,” he said.
Mr Elsum said current residents were also concerned that any new embassies in the diplomatic estate might overlook their properties and wanted trees to provide a privacy screen.
He said heat island studies had shown that area to be quite hot and the association was seeking 40 per cent soft plantings, mostly deep-rooted trees, to help cool residential areas and provide a pleasant environment to live and work.
“We’ve done a fair bit to work on the impacts of climate change and heat island effect on wellbeing of people, it was a major part of our input to the planning reform proposals, and basically we don’t want apartment buildings any higher than the treetops,” he said.
Mr Elsum said this reflected the draft Woden Valley district strategy, which states desired building heights as medium rise.
He said the ratio of green space to the built environment was something the association wanted to see more broadly in Canberra when it came to densification.
That depended a lot on the eventual new planning system rules but also on the developer.
Mr Elsum said open green space next to the creek would provide a recreational area where residents could walk and have barbecues.
He said residents were also opposed to the so-called edge road and road bridge across the creek, wanting only a pedestrian and cycle bridge to provide connection to the rest of Curtin.
Traffic was a key concern and the association opposed any access roads from Yarra Glen, not just for the good of Curtin residents but for the rest of Canberra who use the key road.
“At the moment, we’re assuming there will be access off Cotter Road where there are already lights in place,” he said.
“That will be part of the consultation process, I’m assuming from our discussions with the NCA.”
An ACT Government spokesperson said it was working with NCA on site planning and technical assessments for North Curtin, as one of several infill areas under investigation.
“The timing of any land release in this area remains subject to a range of factors including planning, infrastructure and environmental approval processes, community and stakeholder engagement processes and outcomes, and supporting infrastructure,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said a range of engagement activities would be available for people to have their say, including workshops and surveys.
“More details about the consultation including the timeline and how people can get involved will be released soon,” the spokesperson said.
“Key stakeholder groups will also be contacted to get involved including groups with a connection to the Curtin area.”
According to the contract Statement of Requirements, a final listening report might be available by the end of January 2024 and an Indicative Development Plan and Infrastructure and Site Servicing Plan by March 2024.