Geocon goes too far in Kingston, says Barr

Ian Bushnell 13 July 2020 30
Geocon's planned development in Kingston

An artist’s impression of Geocon’s planned development in Kingston. Image: Purdon Planning.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has stepped into the row over Geocon’s plans to build a six to eight-storey apartment building in old Kingston, saying the proposal goes too far and is not the right fit for the suburb.

Mr Barr’s unusual intervention comes as the pre-DA consultation for the Giles Street proposal enters its final week and a public meeting is being organised for Wednesday night (15 July).

Geocon plans 106 residential units and four ground-floor non-retail commercial units, with basement parking and rooftop gardens and amenities.

It is also seeking to use the rear car park and laneway as an access point, as well as creating a pedestrian laneway through the site from Giles Street to Eyre Street.

Nearby residents are alarmed at the scale of the project and also its impact on parking in the area.

Mr Barr, who is also a local MLA, detailed his concerns about the project in an email to the Kingston Barton Residents Group, which had invited him to the public meeting.

Although he declined the invitation, Mr Barr surprised the group by taking Geocon to task for proposing a development of this size in that location and calling on the developer to change its plans.

”I consider the proposal released does not fit with the form and amenity of the surrounding neighbourhood,” he said.

”The proposed height of the building could overshadow important communal areas, existing residences, and walking and cycling routes.

”While the Government supports residential changes that increase local economic activity and support the viability of local business, this proposal goes too far and does not meet the equally important goal of protecting what makes Kingston a special place to live and visit.”

Mr Barr said Geocon should amend the proposal and re-release it for a further round of community feedback before formally submitting a development application for the site.

The Chief Minister said that he could comment on the proposal because it had not formally been lodged with the planning authority but coming after his call for Doma Group to conduct an Indigenous heritage review of its Foothills site in Campbell, the comments signal a more activist stance and an acknowledgment of community concerns about developer overreach in Canberra, particularly with an election looming.

Rebecca Scouller: the proposal is the thin edge of the wedge for Kingston. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

Kingston Barton Residents Group president Rebecca Scouller welcomed Mr Barr’s comments, saying they showed he was listening to the community as the local member.

She said the proposal would have planning ramifications across Canberra and would be the thin edge of the wedge in Kingston.

”This proposal puts a sledgehammer to the planning rules and, if approved, will have significant impacts on the residents of Howitt and Giles Street, and potentially impact the viability of many local businesses,” she said.

”It would also set a towering precedent for the Kingston Group Centre for future planned development sites.”

She warned that if Geocon was allowed to build close to four times the allowable plot, the planning rules were meaningless.

”We welcome developments that will support the Centre’s viability; however, we are cautious of any that compromise this by reducing parking and access to traders,” Ms Scouller said.

”This proposal is the thin edge of the wedge for Group Centres and smaller local centres if developers are allowed to chase loopholes in ACT planning rules to develop out of character developments.”

The community would welcome the opportunity to sit down with Geocon to discuss a re-released proposal as suggested by the Chief Minister, she said.

Ms Scouller said Wednesday’s in-person meeting was being organised at the community’s request and the numbers were being capped in line with COVID-19 guidance.

The meeting at the Baptist Church in Currie Crescent will include speakers from local business, the National Trust, a planning expert, and local residents, with presentations limited to 10 minutes.

The group is actively monitoring COVID-19 updates and will have a COVID-safe plan in place.

Purdon Planning, representing Geocon, has declined an invitation, saying it had concerns about the format and would prefer to include its entire Project Team in any presentation.

Ms Scouller said Purdon implied that the COVID-19 restricted numbers meant the meeting would not hear ‘varied perspectives from a wide sample’ of the community.

”We note that our cap of 40 (with a waitlist), is equal to, if not greater participation, than Purdon Planning’s Pre-DA consultation in June. That meeting was intended to be their only Pre-DA consultation until there was strong opposition to the proposal,” she said.

”Noting this a community-led meeting to hear from several experts and impacted parties, we are disappointed that a professional planning firm considers they cannot present their proposal to an audience in 5-10 minutes and answer audience questions in a Q & A session.”

Comment was sought from Geocon.

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30 Responses to Geocon goes too far in Kingston, says Barr
wottaway wottaway 5:09 pm 16 Jul 20

When are Australian architects going to learn something about external aesthetics ?…must be the dullest bunch of doodlers on the planet.

Mark Nelson Mark Nelson 8:13 pm 14 Jul 20

Hi Fred, the Labor Party does not accept donations from property developers

Fred Pilcher Fred Pilcher 5:37 pm 14 Jul 20

There must be an election coming up!

I suppose the usual "donation" from Geocon will be smaller this year.

O L O L 10:53 am 14 Jul 20

If you voted labour last election you should just accept their decisions.

Brisal Brisal 10:50 am 14 Jul 20

You would think, that if the approval commitee were doing their job, that it would be the shortest meeting in their history.
“Hello, Mr Geocon. I see you have some plans for a new development in Kingston. Hmm, it appears that your development doesn’t even come close to meeting the planning requirements for this area. Please come back when they do. Meeting is now closed, thank you everyone.”

Rob Rob 7:48 am 14 Jul 20

It would have been better had the Chief Minister found his caution about the excess of large developers a few years back before our city was scarred with their impact. I note that the election is less than 6 months away: will his caution sustain after that or will it be free reign again for large developers after the election?

Philippa Nitsche Philippa Nitsche 2:00 am 14 Jul 20

And Geocon is going too far in Woden also when they build “Wova” on the old tradies site 24 , 16 ,12 & 10 stories Across the road from beautiful Bellerive taking all the sun and views from this lovely retirement village !! Well you could say Burnie court is just moving over the road !!!

Darron Marks Darron Marks 1:15 am 14 Jul 20

So in Gungahlin it is ok to build massive residential slum towers but god help you if you build an 8 story apartment complex in Kingston !

I think this clearly demonstrates how the chief minister disregards the opinions of the majority of residents in the North. But will immediately intervene at the slightest protest of residents in the South in wealthy suburbs.

Toshak Akita Toshak Akita 12:09 am 14 Jul 20

🤣🤣🤣....someone smell an election..🤔

Maureen Cummuskey Maureen Cummuskey 11:13 pm 13 Jul 20

Too far? After the mess that has already been made of this city on his watch. Geocon must have withdrawn their Melbourne job offer ...

Acton Acton 11:11 pm 13 Jul 20

Barr’s track record is always taking the side of developers over the community. With an election coming up he makes a token gesture, but the community is smart enough to see through this hypocrisy. Once the formality of an election is over Barr will resume his cosy relationship with property developer mates.

Sidney Reilly Sidney Reilly 8:25 pm 13 Jul 20

Wait till the site of the Railway Station is rezoned and developed. Will there be any ministerial moderation post election?

Andrew Rowe Andrew Rowe 8:06 pm 13 Jul 20

Someone (wonder who) should have stepped in years ago to limit the rapacious power and greed of the developers in Canberra that have changed the character of our beautiful city forever

Sharee Schultz Sharee Schultz 8:03 pm 13 Jul 20

Wow 😮 I’m surprised!!

Marc Edwards Marc Edwards 7:59 pm 13 Jul 20

Must be an election year

Robin Verhoeff Robin Verhoeff 7:38 pm 13 Jul 20

So when they bought up historic pre-1940's homes in the region of Kingston in the recent past and tore them down, that was 'ok' but now they plan a proposal that doesn't take out any of the historic homes in the area but is a little taller than usual, it's some terrible crime against the heritage character of the area? Last I checked, the best way to protect the heritage character of an area is by protecting the heritage and worrying about nonsense like height later, ONLY if a proposal gets past the first part (that is: "Does it tear down actual historic buildings?")

John Ryan John Ryan 7:11 pm 13 Jul 20

There's several buildings taller than this in Kingston.

We shouldn't freeze Canberra as it was in the 1970s.

We need developments like this to provide affordable housing for ordinary people, not just Deputy Secretaries.

Aaron Still Aaron Still 7:00 pm 13 Jul 20

How about the Tuggeranong one as well?

Charlie Karmenu Flask Charlie Karmenu Flask 6:58 pm 13 Jul 20

Election year = Barr going against his favorite developer hahahaha

Claire Cat Claire Cat 6:44 pm 13 Jul 20

Oh look... election time!

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