Fears rule change for demo housing project will put suburbs at risk

Ian Bushnell 23 April 2021 19
Drawing of unit complex

An artist’s impression of the proposed Manor House in Griffith, south-west view. Image: Rob Henry Architects.

A one-off change to the Territory Plan could usher in a new wave of higher density development across Canberra’s suburbs, community representatives fear.

Draft Variation 375 would amend the Multi Unit Housing Development Code and change the Griffith Precinct Map and Code so a so-called Manor House – a two storey, 4 unit complex with nine car parks – could be built at 20 Blaxland Crescent, currently zoned RZ1, for residential low-rise, low-density housing.

It has been proposed by the owners under the umbrella of the government’s Demonstration Housing Project, which aims to test innovative forms of housing to address emerging needs.

The planning directorate website says it will work with proponents to deliver a handful of built homes that showcase different housing types such as co-housing and ageing in place homes to make for a more sustainable and inclusive future for Canberra.

It says the Manor House is a housing typology showcasing how infill development can be delivered within the same ‘footprint’ as a residential house.

But the Inner South Canberra Community Council, representing eight inner south organisations, believes that the proposal pre-empts the current review of the Territory Plan, is unnecessary and will create a precedent for similar development across Canberra’s suburbs.

Chair Gary Kent says the government should not change the residential planning regulations for one block, based on the pretext of running an architectural design project.

“If a four-unit Manor House can be built on this site, they can be built anywhere throughout the suburbs. Cramming a Manor House into an RZ1 zone is not high-quality living,” he says in the council’s objection to DV375.

He says there is no need to test a Manor House in the ACT because they have already been built in NSW, and it would be simpler to visit those sites.

Mr Kent says the government itself argues that off or site-specific Variations to the Territory Plan are not generally supported unless it can be demonstrated that there is an overriding public benefit or good and it is consistent with the planning objectives of the ACT Government.

“The only beneficiaries, if the Manor House were to be built, would appear to be the proponents, who live there already and could sell the units,” he says.

Drawing of units complex - North east view

A north-east view of the proposed Manor House in Griffith. Image: Rob Henry Architects.

Mr Kent says the project would only create planning uncertainty for residents.

“The largest investment for most families is the purchase of a home. It is crucial they know what could be built next to them,” he says.

“Families need certainty and trust in the planning system. They do not want the surprise of a four-unit, two-storey, apartment-style dwelling with nine car parks built next door and impacting on their privacy and amenity.”

Mr Kent says that in 2018 the Inner South already had the highest ratio of high-density dwellings of Canberra’s eight districts. Since then, more than 2,000 new dwellings are in the pipeline, excluding the developments at Kingston Foreshore.

“There is no need for more intensification,” he says.

Residents are also worried that changing the rules to allow for the construction of units will reduce the value of existing houses and increase noise, traffic and safety concerns.

Mr Kent says the project is supposed to “test the effectiveness of different housing types through real examples and future review through post-occupancy modelling”, but the government has not said when the testing will be done, what criteria will be used for evaluation or who will do it.


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4 Responses to Fears rule change for demo housing project will put suburbs at risk
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George Watling George Watling 8:19 pm 26 Apr 21

What is being proposed here is not a ‘manor house’. It is a multiunit dwelling development in an RZ1 street.

If this ‘demo’ gets up it will be the end of the Canberra as a green and livable garden city.

It’s a Trojan horse designed to get our current RZ1 building regulations that protect us from over development over turned.

If the proposed variation to the territory plan goes through home owners will lose their right to challenge and appeal Development Plans that will negatively impact themselves and their families. It will be the Mr Fluffy blocks all over again.

The sad fact is that suburban densification here in Canberra and elsewhere (Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne) comes at a very high cost that includes:

+ living in a sea of hard surfaces that has far fewer trees, green spaces, and cool surfaces then are needed to maintain good physical and mental health,

+ very high temperatures in summer that increase the risk of heat stroke and stress for residents as the hard surfaces around them absorb solar radiation and become very hot,

+ increased air conditioning costs and greenhouse emissions as people have to run their air-conditioners for longer to cope with higher temperatures,

+ increased noise and light pollution as hard surfaces replace trees and gardens,

+ reduced habitat food sources for local wildlife,

+ reduced air quality,

+ limited places for kids to play and adults to relax in,

+ reduced privacy and access to sunlight as higher density buildings over look and overshadow each other and existing homes,

+ increased congestion on local roads,

+ decreased quality of life for everyone in the densification zone as green gardens and open spaces disappear and already stretched local facilitates buckle under the weight of so many more additional households. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-11/australians-face-unliveable-cities-less-greenspace-heat/13231068?utm_source=abc_news_web&utm_medium=content_shared&utm_content=link&utm_campaign=abc_news_web&fbclid=IwAR2sZKi-HH9_LbIGYx3DUA4appb69dZO2AsiyEG04EqUExodWfINDoL6esA

Bill Gemmell Bill Gemmell 8:32 am 26 Apr 21

My concern is "how do you uncook the egg?" if it is a failed pilot project.

    Bill Gemmell Bill Gemmell 8:22 pm 26 Apr 21

    George Watling While I don't know enough about this project to definitively comment, I was underwhelmed by the Weston one, even after two presentations. I sort of wanted to like it but in the end wasn't persuaded that it would do what the proponents suggested.

    George Watling George Watling 8:30 pm 26 Apr 21

    Bill Gemmell Both are part of a coordinated plan to get rid of our RZ1 protections. They are 'Demo'lition charges set to demolish our way of life.

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