17 August 2022

Gentleman knocks back proposal for the first time to protect future of McKellar shops

| Ian Bushnell
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Render of apartments

An artist’s impression of the residential component of the proposed development. Images: Kasparek Architects.

For the first time, Planning Minister Mick Gentleman has used his call-in powers to reject a development proposal.

Mr Gentleman said the mixed-use development at the McKellar shops was not in character with the area and would limit the site’s potential.

The proposal, designed by Kasparek Architects, is for a three to four-storey block of 14 units facing Dumas Street and a separate two-storey retail premises on the vacant 2145 square metre site.

The overwhelming residential nature of the development raised red flags with the Minister, who said the government did not want to compromise the shops.

Mr Gentleman said the rezoning required for the proposal to proceed would mean that if the units were sold to individual owners and managed under a body corporate, it would be very difficult to redevelop or expand the site down the track, let alone attract suitable commercial tenants.

“While the bottom storey of the block of units could have been used for professional service shopfronts or residential purposes, the proposed design of the building would have changed the character of the Dumas Street frontage to look residential,” he said.

“Local shops are the heart and soul of their suburbs, and while the McKellar shops don’t have as many retail or commercial offerings right now as we’d like, we do not want to limit the precinct’s potential for the future.”

Aerial plan

The site plan shows the layout of the development on the site in relation to its neighbours.

Mr Gentleman said the proposal also didn’t provide enough parking for residents or visitors to the shops.

He said the planning system must be used to maximise the commercial, residential and recreational gains of every new development in balance with the protection of the character, environmental values and amenity of suburbs.

“After careful consideration of the proposal, the views of the proponent and those of local residents, I am firmly of the belief that this development would not be in the long-term best interest of McKellar,” Mr Gentleman said.

He said the government would welcome a revised design for the site that responded better to the future needs of McKellar and optimised the site’s full potential.

Render of building

A view of the separate commercial unit.

The DA calls the proposed three-bedroom units adaptable and consistent with local centres.

“The proposed commercial (residentially adaptable) units present a ground-level commercial interface to Dumas Street with courtyard programming that allows easy adaptability to a full commercial interface if needed,” the DA says.

“The upper levels of these units present as three bedroom residential homes, thus providing true shop-top living opportunities.”

Mr Gentleman has never used his call-in powers, which he is set to lose to the Chief Planner under the new planning system, to block a proposed development.

Previously he has called in projects, including YWCA Canberra’s supportive housing project in Ainslie and the Common Ground housing development in Dickson, citing the need to provide homes for people in need.

Comment was sought from the proponent.

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