17 January 2019

Government set to push on with high-density plans for Section 72, Dickson

| Ian Bushnell
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Section 72 in Dickson. Images: Supplied.

The ACT Government appears ready to steamroll opposition to high-density development in the area known as Section 72 in Dickson, rejecting claims that it should be the preserve of community facilities and confirming that the Common Ground social housing project will be sited there.

The North Canberra Community Council had written to Minister for Urban Renewal Rachel Stephen-Smith in December concerned that the latest plans for Section 72, bounded by Cowper and Antill Streets and Hawdon Place, were dominated by high-density residential development.

It said that there was strong community support for developing Section 72 as a high-quality community, cultural and recreational precinct with significant parkland, but the consultation process had paid lip service to this.

“The suggestion of some ground-floor community-use rooms, and placement of street trees and green edges between the footprints of bulky four to six storey multi-unit buildings, as concessions, fails to address broader community aspirations for the enhancement of this precinct,” the letter said.

“… NCCC members are concerned that the Government is not hearing the community’s very clearly stated vision and constructive suggestions for this site.”

The council suggested the establishment of a Community Reference panel reporting to the Minister to prepare a brief to guide urban renewal in Section 72, and also sent the Minister a position paper.

While Ms Stephen-Smith said in a letter to the council before Christmas that the Government would consider the suggestion of a community panel, the Government was not about to restart the community consultation process which she said had been extensive, open and transparent.

She rejected claims that the Government was focused on high-density residential development on the site, saying the Government envisaged a mix of uses in Section 72, including open space, and that planning so far sees opportunities for additional community uses as part of mixed-use developments.

“It is important to understand that the inclusion of residential uses in Section 72 will not necessarily reduce the site’s overall capacity for community uses and may indeed increase the ability of the ACT Government and community organisations to provide high-quality community spaces and facilities,” she said.

The Minister said the Common Ground proposal was an election commitment and confirmed that it would be built on the former Downer Club site or Block 25.

She also implied that the council did not speak for all members of the community, saying that “we understand that not all community members will agree with one another on the future and priorities for Dickson Section 72”.

Dickson Residents Group convenor Jane Goffman, who is also a member of the council, said the response was par for the course and she felt the community had been hitting its head against a brick wall.

Ms Goffman said the meeting at which it was decided to write to the minister was well attended and the motion was passed overwhelmingly.

She said Section 72 was historically a land bank for community facilities and a green belt.

She said the issue was about proper planning and what people will need in 25 years, and with many more apartments along the Northbourne Corridor it was important those people had access to quality facilities and open space, “because, if anything, their need is even greater”.

“It’s about what needs our growing community is going to have in the future. You’ve got to plan ahead and talk to people about what those needs are for the whole of the Inner North because Dickson is increasingly acting as a district centre for the whole of the Inner North,” she said.

Ms Goffman said the council supported the Common Ground concept but said there were more suitable sites in the Inner North near shops and transport that were ripe for redevelopment than the selected site which was at the extreme end of Section 72 on what is a ‘forgotten’ piece of land.

She said it was important that a development such as this was well integrated into the area. “We can’t just plonk it on a bit of vacant land because nobody else wants it,” she said.

Ms Stephen-Smith said in her letter that an Inner North community needs analysis would be released early in 2019.



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I wonder if the proposed redevelopment includes a pool to replace the one they’re getting rid of.

They are not planning on replacing the Dickson pool.

High density residential was always going to be the end game for this area.
The “extensive, open and transparent” community consultation process has now been revealed as just another elaborate song and dance show, of which our department of re-zoning & residential densification has become most adept at churning out.
The whole point of all those warm & fuzzy ‘planning sessions’, ‘info kiosks’ & ‘community workshops’ was to enable the minister of the day to say process had been followed.
And if they can provoke some community in-fighting to distract people from what’s actually going on – all the better. After all, who needs community space – so overrated.

Ignoring of course that the old places along Antil Street at Downer are already higher density many being delapitaed duplexes.

As for the specific area in question considering what is there now, what exactly is the issue with higher density unita on this land?

What a shame we don’t have Paul C on riotact anymore to put up another rant about this one.

As I’ve always said, and as duke has summarised, its a site prime for reasonable development, and relatively high density as well. There are not many sites in Canberra where I would make such a comment, but this is clearly one of them. As long as the proposed development is not hideous, I don’t see what the issue is apart from the usual case of NIMBYism.

“Ms Goffman said the meeting at which it was decided to write to the minister was well attended and the motion was passed overwhelmingly.”

On this comment, I wonder what well attended means in this context…

“She said Section 72 was historically a land bank for community facilities and a green belt.”

If you call a club a ‘community facility’ (arguable as to what benefit they provide to some segments of the community) and vacant blocks a ‘green belt’, then sure….. no one is proposing to develop the true green belt in that area (the bike path and trees), and there is a large green space just next door. I just don’t see what the massive outcry from those few is really about. Focus energy on more important developments if you ask me.

Yes Paul save those precious parklands!

I hope they call the development Parklands just for the lols

Prime for development. Adjacent to ovals, the wetlands and a short walk to Dickson/ lrail.

And already a run down derilect area. Anything would be an improvement.

Ps where is Paul Costigan?

Ah, seems the unrepresentative Nimby community councils are at it again.

Not content with the government spending over a billion dollars in infrastructure in their areas (raising their property values by hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process), they also wanted millions more spent to lock away even more land for their use.

Despite the fact that the success of the light rail was predicated on these types of developments in the area.

Perhaps they should be more careful about who and what they vote for in future?

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