22 May 2023

Decision looming for Brindabella Christian College car park

| Ian Bushnell
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Brindabella Christian College car park

Brindabella Christian College car park has been operating on public land for years, but is it legal? Photo: Region.

The contentious issue of the legality of Brindabella Christian College’s sealed car park on public land may finally be coming to a head.

After a decade of dogged persistence, the Lyneham Community Association is about to find out if the ACT Government will act on its claims that the college illegally developed the car park on a section of the adjoining Lyneham Oval or whether it will be able to take the matter to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal to settle the issue once and for all.

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The association has always opposed the college’s appropriation of the land, which Brindabella operates as a sublease through Transport Canberra and City Services.

It says the college should not be able to privatise public land that is urban open space, that the car park is unsafe and the school’s lack of transport planning is contributing to traffic issues around the school.

But its many complaints have been dismissed by government agencies with misleading or ambiguous responses or disappeared down bureaucratic rabbit holes as a swag of documents secured through freedom of information requests show.

Now Access Canberra has issued a show cause notice to Brindabella Christian College in relation to possible regulatory action after the association lodged an application for a controlled activity order on 8 December last year.

The association took this action after what it said was the mishandling of its previous controlled activity complaint.

BCC has until today (23 May) to respond to the notice before any decision is made.

If the application is dismissed or the government order is less than what the association is requesting, the matter can be referred to ACAT for review.

The row over the car park on a section of the Lyneham playing fields goes back to 2009 when it was established informally about the time the school built on its previous car park on school land.

The community association says that in late 2016 the school sealed the car park despite the planning authority rejecting a request earlier in the year for a direct sale of the land to complete the project, advising that a Territory Plan Variation would be required and that the development would be in breach of the Planning and Development Act.

An aerial view of Lyneham, showing the boundaries of Block 23 and the Brindabella Christian College car park at one end. Photo: ACT Government.

In response to the CAC about the car park, TCCS finally said in July last year that it 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 June 2018, the association wrote to Minister for Sport and Recreation Yvette Berry alleging the school was in breach of its sublease. However, after many months of to and fro between directorates, the official response was that it was a legal matter between the government and the school and could not be discussed with a third party.

But an opinion from EPSDD in an email to TCCS dated 18 June 2018 on the alleged breach is clear that without the outdoor sports facility, the car park should not be able to operate.

“A lease (or by extension a sublease) might provide for a particular purpose (the dominant purpose) and an ancillary purpose might also be allowed,” it says.

“If the dominant purpose does not proceed, then the ancillary purpose also cannot proceed. Hence, the ancillary purpose cannot operate in the absence of an active dominant purpose.”

The association took up TCCS’s response with Access Canberra, which replied in a 19 July 2022 email that TCCS believes the car park is ancillary to the playing field and therefore did not require a DA.

Association spokesperson Kate Bradney said recent FOI requests showed the government had knowingly allowed this development, via inaction, despite its contravention of planning legislation.

Ms Bradney said the government repeatedly dismissed the community’s concerns and even provided misleading information to persuade the community that the car park was legitimate, despite all of the ACT Government internal correspondence saying the opposite.

“The FOIs show, pretty clearly, that the ACT Government has always been aware that the car park isn’t permitted or legal, but they did nothing about it, despite the community members and the Lyneham Community Association pleading with them to take action for years and years, a decade almost.”

Ms Bradney said the development of the car park and the lack of transport planning by the college had caused congestion and rat running through Lyneham streets, making them increasingly unsafe, particularly for young children, especially on Brigalow Street where the car park driveway is located.

“Now Brindabella Christian College is larger than ever, and there are more cars than ever before, driving even more dangerously on and around Brigalow Street, and every day walking our kids to school, we have to worry about being hit by a car or seeing a kid be hit by a car,” she said.

Mr Bradney said that if the ACT Government had acted with good administrative conduct, it would have intervened to address the school’s growth and the resultant traffic issues and not allowed the loss of protected public green open space reserved for outdoor recreation and the environment.

“The consequence is that the community is put at incredible risk and have lost the amenity of our place, our neighbourhood, and our space,” she said.

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In February, the association launched a Legislative Assembly petition, Stop Private Car Parks on Protected Public Green Open Spaces, which has garnered more than 1000 signatures.

It was aimed at the Brindabella car park and a temporary Canberra Grammar School car park that that school wanted to seal and make permanent.

But in March, the planning authority rejected the DA in a significant victory for community groups campaigning against land creep by private entities.

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After reading all these comments, apart from my own, I do agree with Jackson Bohlsen’s considered views
9:25 am 24 May 23
I look forward to hearing the next episode in this NIMBY soap-opera.
The ‘public’ BCC car-park has become a necessary feature of the Lyneham landscape.
Dreaming that the clock can be set back to before 2009, to me, is simply incredible.
The idea of “out-of-area” pupils becoming the innocent victims of a few Lyneham folk’s pet peeve, would be silly.

Have your say to ACT Gov on the draft Urban Open Space Land Management Plan via: https://yoursayconversations.act.gov.au/managing-our-urban-open-spaces

And please sign the petition: https://epetitions.parliament.act.gov.au/details/e-pet-004-23

lynehamlover7:29 pm 24 May 23

>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.

I’m not a lawyer, but call Blumers

“Frabjous Day ! Calloo, Callay, he chortled in his joy.”

At last the seemingly moribund Lyneham Community Association (LCA) has updated its internet webpage.
My observations below must have hit a nerve ?

My Congratulations to the new LCA Office Bearers upon their (self-) appointments, unopposed.
So amusing to read the latest 2023 draft Minutes.

The LCA are thorns in the side of the BCC.
BCC has so far been able to ignore their pricking.

The key to all this will be the resolution of the status of the ‘BCC’ public car-park vis-á-vis the “amenity it serves.

I predict that the car-park will Not return to grass.
I sincerely hope BCC has to pay a real cash ‘Rent’ for its occupation of the site.

Parking in Lyneham is at a premium. The two-hour spaces alongside the public primary school are filled all day. Dare one enquire by whom ?

LCA needs to get the bigger picture into focus, with all due respect, i.m.o..

lynehamlover7:30 pm 24 May 23

I think the LCA has the bigger picture in focus, it sets a pretty important precedent

You are Not a lawyer, you say.
So – I’d suggest you’re Not a good judge either.
Let’s agree to differ.

lynehamlover7:51 pm 25 May 23

Agreeing to differ is hard when the other person has an objectively boomered position

“Boomered” ?
Objectively ?
How very sad –
Must be on Planet B
Go well LynehamLover.
As PK observed this morning – “the banality” . . .

lynehamlover10:41 am 26 May 23

There is no Planet B, that’s the point. Lets protect or beautiful planet and make sure institutions don’t pillage it. I am glad you have come around and see my position and agree with me. Well done JD.

I really don’t understand how it could be seen as OK to appropriate land like this. Imagine if I tried it on my neighbour? I wouldn’t mind a bit more space.

Please sign the petition to ‘Stop Private Car Parks on Protected Green Open Spaces’ https://epetitions.parliament.act.gov.au/details/e-pet-004-23

Re – “in March, the planning authority rejected the DA” actually refers to the CGS proposal, not the BCC’s.

Below, that ‘chair-‘ should be ‘chain-‘.
So, “Nominally, after the BCC took down the chain-barrier, it is become a ‘public’ car-park.”
And I say “Nominally”, because the adjacent grass playing field area is rarely used on any weekend – just by a drone flyer, or with a dog playing – the ‘BCC’ public car park is simply a vacant space outside school hours.

Once more unto the breach !

The few questionably-“representative” group (primarily of seeming NIMBYs) who constitute the Lyneham Community Association (LCA) were first incorporated in 2015.
They have a motley following.
Their website is hardly informative.
Well, unless you consider obsolete non-information, including their most recent Newsletter dating from December 2021. Their last documented AGM was held on 14 April 2019, and those Minutes are ‘unconfirmed’. The Chair and Deputy Chair are apparently ‘vacant’.
(Nothing about whatever happened last month !)
And yet the LCA keeps thrashing-on about on this issue.

Brindabella Christian College (BCC) has been their bête noir almost from their incorporation.

So what has been achieved ?
The footpath has been painted green to signify the possible right-of-way of both pedestrians and bike riders.
The target of that painting over the cracks is whom ? The Parents driving into and out of the large car-park next to the (‘private’) school.
The car-park has been ‘improved’ from dusty gravel to a tarred expanse with lane-markings.
Nominally, after the BCC took down the chair-barrier, it is become a ‘public’ car-park.

The actual intrusion upon the Lyneham playing-fields is modest, considering all the very comprehensive green spaces in the Lyneham suburb nearby.
No children have been deprived of playing areas, really.
It is just The Principle.

And what else ?
The LCA thrash on .. ..
Never a constructive compromise or suggestion from LCA.
Just ‘stop the whirl, I want to get off’ (pun intended).
The Petitions have been persistent; their spokeswoman hardly stops begging for support (mainly here in Comments).
When will the LCA propose a token ‘solution’ – there is none !!
The BCC has created a problem.
Nothing has been forthcoming.
The BCC finally negotiated with St Ninian’s next door about their not using the Church’s parking area, quite successfully.

If the ‘BCC’ tarred parking area was to be ripped up, and returned to grass, WHERE would all the BCC Parents drop their children ?
Where would the Teachers park ?

Unless the LCA make some constructive suggestions, the stand-off just continues unresolved.

I have long advocated that BCC ought to pay a real cash Rent for this land. That idea is never addressed by LCA.
Just ACCEPT the fait accompli, but on renegotiated terms between the BCC and the ACT Government.
Status Quo Rules, OK !!

Thanks to the patient school crossing Lolly-Pop people who help children to cross Brigalow Street. (BCC Parents rushing away – or forget the protective 40kph speed limit, as soon as the children are dropped.)

I’d argue that the burden of solving this mess is the responsibility of the BCC developers and the ACT Gov
and town planners, not a rag tag group of community volunteers?

We’ve highlighted the issue and the communities safety concerns.. But we aren’t professional town planners.

Its the BCC and ACT Govs job to come up with and implement a safe and legal transport strategy for the school.

But if you want to check out and read this petition ;)(https://epetitions.parliament.act.gov.au/details/e-pet-004-23) you’ll be happy that we do actually make some constructive suggestions for a solution (eg more busses, finding a safe and legal off-site car park, and facilitating active travel).

I dunno what the answer is, but it sure isn’t a hectic unsafe car park on protected public land. Its an accident waiting to happen. You hit the nail on the head in your last sentence.

Stephen Saunders8:29 am 23 May 23

The medieval board of BCC is answerable to Mighty God only, not some pipsqueak town council. Get in extra popcorn, for this playlet.

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