‘They should’ve known that if there was green space near the property, it was likely to be redeveloped at some point.’
Such was the reaction of one Canberran I spoke to about the predicament of Holder residents who have learnt this month that 39,634 sq m of parkland (incorporating the current offices of PANDSI) off Stapylton Street adjacent to their homes is set to be developed as a block of up to 30 public housing townhouses.
See our video interview with Holder residents about the development here:
The RiotACT has learnt that one man who bought six months ago chose a home in Stapylton Street specifically because of its proximity to this open green space.
Call me naive, but surely unless there is a sign marking out space as set for future development, it would be a safe assumption for a househunter to make that the park near their potential home is likely to be around for a while. If that situation changes, you’d expect to receive notification at least a few months out and to be given an opportunity to have your say on whether such plans go ahead.
The ACT Government’s actions in Holder are making me look at the green spaces in my own suburb differently, that’s for sure. Some have signs noting they are slated for future development, and that’s fine. Others are used by dog walkers, runners and families heading to the playground, and like most fellow residents, I imagine, I had thought they’d always be around.
Just yesterday afternoon I walked (well, jogged as they scooted and ran) with my own children and dog to a nearby playground and celebrated with my youngest when he found a cockatoo feather, joined in as they did their “exercises” on the grass and ran around the oval (it’s a pretty sad excuse for an oval given the bumpy lawn is more of a collection of trip hazards than a playing surface, but that’s another story).
Spaces like this offer amenity (and oxygen) for us all, providing a leafy outlook for passers by and for residents who are not so easily able to get out and about. They’re part of the reason for Canberra’s Bush Capital tagline, and contribute to the quality of life that drew many of us to live here in the first place.
While I recognise that urban infill is necessary, perhaps there should be a cap on the development of green space in each of Canberra’s suburbs to ensure the ratio of development to parkland remains in balance. Certainly, there should be clear signage to indicate the Government’s plans for relevant sites.
On the plus side, what’s left of the green space at Holder will provide all of those green space benefits to the residents who will live in the new public townhouses, but that’s little consolation to the members of the newly formed Holder Community Action Group right now.
The action group’s members have four main concerns about the proposed public housing development:
- The lack of consultation (some residents have received a Government flyer alerting them to the housing development, some haven’t, and the first flyers only appeared in mid-March, with the development application scheduled to be lodged in April).
- A lack of services for the incoming public housing residents, with limited access to public transport and government services, including public schools, in the area.
- The fact that up to 30 homes will be lumped together, rather than distributed evenly around the suburb “salt and pepper” style. “It’s more a case of the salt shaker tipped over,” says resident Jodie Beitzel.
- The loss of green space for residents. “This is very important space to Holder residents,” Dr Beitzel says. “It’s well used and loved by locals. Kids come to the playground, people walk their dogs, people go walking generally, it’s really important space at the heart of our community that will be destroyed by this development.”
The issue will be up for discussion at a Weston Creek Community Council meeting this Wednesday, March 29, at the Raiders Club in Weston at 7.30pm.
The council has used a message on its website to urge residents to attend to discuss the Holder plan as well as proposed public housing developments at Wright and Chapman.
“There is much for the community to be concerned about,” the post reads.
“The Holder site directly abuts existing housing on two sides and comes very close to housing on a third side with access planned off a bend in Stapylton Street. As the site is constricted and also has considerable fall in one area it is puzzling as to why this site has been chosen.
“The Chapman site is in a designated bushfire prone zone. According to the Bushfire Management Plan it is not permissible to ‘concentrate members of the community at high risk from bushfire in declared bushfire prone areas’ The site has been previously rejected as a site for an aged care facility.
“The site in Wright is within an area which already has a number of townhouses so the up to 32 townhouses proposed will increase this density.”
A spokeswoman for the ACT Minister for Housing told the RiotACT on Friday that upcoming consultation sessions would provide an opportunity for the community to be involved in decision-making about the make-up and appearance of the development. She noted that the Government had flagged the need to move public housing tenants currently based in apartments on Northbourne Avenue to new sites across Canberra prior to the election.
Members of the Public Housing Renewal Taskforce will attend a public drop-in information session at the Weston Creek Community Centre to provide more detail and answer questions on Saturday, April 8, from 11am till 1pm. The centre is at Parkinson St, Weston. Adjacent to Cooleman Court.
To receive ACT Government updates on the Holder site, including about the development application process, readers should email firstname.lastname@example.org and include “Holder S21” in the subject heading.
Residents can contact the Holder Community Action Group via email, email@example.com, and find them on Facebook (Holder Community Action Group) and Twitter: @HolderAction.
What do you think about the Government’s plan for public housing at Holder? Is it an appropriate use of the site? Is the size of the development acceptable? Should there be a cap on development of green space in Canberra suburbs?