Geocon has put a development application for its contentious Kingston apartment project on ice until after the election as the main parties throw their weight behind local residents campaigning to block the proposal.
The Canberra development giant wants to build a six to eight-storey mixed-use development at 84-86 Giles Street on Blocks 13 and 22 Section 22, next to the old post office, but local residents say the proposal is out of step with the character of the area and raises serious traffic and parking concerns.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr weighed into the issue first in July, saying it goes too far and is not the right fit for the suburb, and now it has become a political hot potato for all the major parties.
They have told the Kingston Barton Residents Group (KBRG) that the proposal is not acceptable in its current form.
The master plan allows four storeys but a change to the precinct code imposed a two-storey height limit, although it also allows for higher development provided there are no significant impacts on neighbouring dwellings.
Geocon has said Kingston already has high-rise apartments and the proposal will help revitalise the Kingston shops and allow people to live in the suburb.
It declined on Thursday (1 October) to comment on the parties’ positions, other than to say it would wait until the election is decided before moving ahead with a development application.
KBRG welcomed election commitments from Labor, the Greens and the Liberals calling on Geocon to reconsider its proposal.
President of the KBRG Rebecca Scouller said the parties, community and local businesses had sent a clear message to Geocon and Purdon Planning that they needed to go back to the drawing board.
Ms Scouller hoped that they would follow through on their commitments after the election.
”After the debacle of the Greater Western Sydney/Grocon unsolicited bid in 2016, Andrew Barr made an election promise to engage a community panel to help inform a Master Plan for the Manuka Oval precinct. Neither the community panel nor Master Plan ever eventuated,” she said.
Mr Barr wrote to KBRG on 25 September that he was disappointed that Geocon had dismissed the residents’ concerns, noting that strong community feedback had resulted in developments being rejected by the independent planning authority.
”Notwithstanding this, let me be clear that if ACT Labor is re-elected in October we will not support any Territory Plan Variations applications associated with, or lodged in conjunction with, the development as it is currently proposed,” he said.
”Furthermore, we expect all development proponents to comply with the Territory Plan and associated codes. If this does not occur, we would consider the available options to oppose the development.”
The ACT Greens told KBRG that any formal proposal must be consistent with the Kingston Master Plan, particularly in relation to building heights.
”The proposal as it stands, at twice the height identified in the master plan, is likely to have significant impacts on the local community in relation to privacy, shading and density. To our mind this would be out of step with the character of the precinct,” Greens Kurrajong candidate Rebecca Vassarotti said.
The Canberra Liberals said the proposal was not in keeping within the character of Kingston, and the planning rules including height restrictions should be maintained.