8 September 2020

Fight goes on to keep apartments out of West Basin despite latest approval

| Ian Bushnell
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West Basin

West Basin is about to be transformed. Photo: ACT Government.

The next phase of the planned redevelopment of West Basin will begin as early as next Monday after getting the green light from the National Capital Authority.

The City Renewal Authority had already contracted Chincivil, the same company that developed Henry Rolland Park, to undertake the planned works which include reclaiming 2.8 hectares of lake bed and extending the boardwalk. The works will take two years to complete.

The next phases will involve constructing a new four-hectare park, followed by mixed-use development of the area behind. Design plans are expected to be ready for community review and consultation early next year.

The consultation period resulted in some changes to the proposal including permanent planting of 198 native and exotic trees instead of the proposed containerised tree farm, shaded barbecue and picnic facilities, and temporary toilets next to the former bicycle hire building.

The boardwalk will include street lighting, bench seating, lifebuoy cabinets and small boat mooring points. The existing cycle path will be retained.

Acting convenor of the Lake Burley Griffin Guardians Michael Lawson said the heritage group was very disappointed that the development was going ahead almost as planned.

But although this battle has been lost, Mr Lawson said the Guardians would stay in the fight to shape and maintain West Basin as a high-quality public realm.

”We want park not apartments,” he said.

READ ALSO Fireworks flare over West Basin redevelopment plans

Calling the campaign a slow burn, he said the group would continue to highlight the piecemeal planning of West Basin past the ANU and through to Acton Peninsula, instead of having an overall strategy for the area.

The Guardians were still engaging with the CRA and the NCA, as well as lobbying political candidates in the coming election.

”We think there is a lot more opportunity to get involved and change things. We’re trying to get some worthwhile public benefits in the parkland that is going to be out there over the water,” he said.

But the Guardians remain opposed to the sale of land for private apartment development, even though the originally mooted 2000 dwellings have now been revised down to be in their hundreds.

Mr Lawson said even though they would not be high rise, they would still be massed buildings of about eight storeys.

”In post-COVID times high-quality public space is going to be even more appreciated by people,” he said. ”That means people don’t want large apartment estates dominating the waterfront.”

Mr Lawson was also concerned about the safety of cyclists and pedestrians when trucks began delivering infill to the lake.

Proposed lake edge

An illustration showing the proposed new lake edge. The proposed tree farm will be replaced by permanent plantings. Image: ACT Government.

CRA chief executive Malcolm Snow told the ABC that despite the dominance of objections to the proposal in submissions to the NCA, he believed the community overall supported the plans for West Basin.

He rejected claims that the project would privatise the lakeshore, saying the community wanted unrestricted access.

”People will be invited to come in not stay out,” Mr Snow said.

He said the streets and lanes of NewActon provided a sense of what the eventual urban development would look like.

”We want to see a rich mix. We’re trying to create a new community, not something that’s gated off and privatised,” he said.

Mr Snow said path diversions would be in place for cyclists and pedestrians during construction so they could still move through the area.

He said there had been a decade of consultation about plans for West Basin, and the CRA would be looking for more public input into the development of the parklands which would meet the highest environmental standards.

”We are simply implementing what the Commonwealth through the National Capital Plan has said should happen in this part of Canberra,” Mr Snow said.

The NCA received a total of 187 submissions on the proposal – 31 in support, 141 opposed and 15 provided a neutral response but raised concerns or questions.

Opposition centred on environmental, heritage, planning and traffic issues, as well as concerns about the North Curtin Horse Paddock deal that paved the way for the lake-bed reclamation.

It said it was satisfied the revised plans addressed the concerns raised during the community consultation, although the NCA could only address the proposed works not the overall plans for the area such as urban development.

”The revised proposal is not inconsistent with the relevant provisions of the National Capital Plan, and is supported by the NCA,” it said.

The application was approved on 4 September.

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I think it is a good idea. That area has stayed the same since the Lake was filled and it is long past time that it was redeveloped and brought into the 21st century.

There was similar criticism when the redevelopment of the area closer to Commonwealth Ave Bridge was announced, but it was done and nobody could deny that the area now looks a whole lot better than it did when the infamous futsal slab was there.

That side of the Lake has been neglected and forgotten for a long time and it is good to see something finally being done about it. Bring it on.

Don’t tell me the guardians have found an acting covener that actually lives in the ACT…..

I still don’t see what all the fuss is about. Just like the Dickson parklands, a shouty voice seems to hog all the headlines on this one.

It is a pity that Canberra has to start filling its lakes in.

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