In a city hungry for land, how long can the horse paddocks last?

Ian Bushnell 5 September 2021 129
Yarralumla horse paddocks

A section of the Yarralumla horse paddocks, only a short drive from Civic. Photos: Ian Bushnell.

Aged care provider LDK’s proposal for a $143 million residential village and care centre on the old motel site off the Cotter Road may have ramifications for the neighbouring horse paddocks.

LDK plans 55 villas and 261 units across four to five-storey buildings clustered around amenities and care services.

If approved, it will mean a massive change to the rural landscape and green buffer between the inner south and Weston Creek.

The more than 100 hectares of space on both sides of the Cotter Road’s long-established agistment paddocks has always provided a welcome break in the city’s urban development between the inner south and Weston Creek.

Canberra’s growth has already started to impinge on that sense of rural relief. The Cotter Road used to be a single lane link to the west reminiscent of a country lane but is now a dual carriageway that fills every day with new commuters from the Molonglo Valley.

Yarralumla horse paddocks

The wide-open spaces of the Yarralumla horse paddocks looking down to the Tuggeranong Parkway and beyond to the new suburbs of the Molonglo Valley.

As they drive past the horse paddocks on either side, many commuters must wonder how long can they last.

The deal between the ACT Government and the NCA on the North Curtin Horse Paddocks means eventually, between the proposed diplomatic estate and development of the remaining Territory land on the light rail corridor, that stretch of rural landscape will be no more.

This is basically a function of a growing city and the land use pressures that brings, no matter whether one thinks it is a good thing or not.

The government planning strategy favours infill over greenfield development in a bid to contain urban sprawl and conserve habitat, but the demand for standalone houses is insatiable and in the current market is feeding record prices.

That is a social and, inevitably, a political problem, and supply is about the only lever left.

The government is also understandably hesitant about building too many new suburbs because it can be very expensive and comes with service problems such as extending public transport and building new schools.

When it comes to building a compact city, it will be difficult to ignore the wide-open spaces so conveniently close to the city that a relatively small group of people uses.

LDK development

An artist’s impression of the proposed LDK development. Image: Rothelowman.

Such a big residential development next to those open spaces will only increase the speculation about whether agistment is the best use of that land while people are being forced to buy apartments instead of the family home, or even townhouse, they would prefer because there are so few they can afford.

Not to mention those who are being locked out of the market altogether.

Horse paddocks emtry

The entry to the horse paddocks next to the LDK site.

The LDK site is designated national land, as is the neighbouring 40-hectare Yarralumla horse paddocks, something that might save them in the short term from development. Across the Cotter Road is the 80-hectare Illoura paddocks, which is ACT land.

It could be argued that there are options for the land other than housing that retain a rural use, such as market gardens or the creation of a green recreational buffer.

But at present, there does not appear to be even a conversation about the future of the land.

The Curtin deal devastated the city’s equestrian community, and any more loss of trails and agistment would be met with fierce resistance.

But governments of any persuasion will surely be asking the same questions as the motorists who speed past on the Cotter Road: how long can they last?

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129 Responses to In a city hungry for land, how long can the horse paddocks last?
rossau rossau 12:56 am 10 Sep 21

Chris O’Rourke, the population of Canberra needs to increase because the infantile mantra of growth is allegedly proven. These folk believe that growth is the way to provide jobs and security to the people of Australia. That same mantra leads to the conclusion, obvious for many, that unbridled growth is the sole problem.

rossau rossau 12:49 am 10 Sep 21

Like photographs of MacDonalds burgers, I can’t see the ‘artist’s impression of the proposed LDK development. Image: Rothelowman’ ever becoming reality.

Chris O'Rourke Chris O'Rourke 1:12 pm 09 Sep 21

Why does the population of Canberra need to increase? How will it improve the quality of life for Canberrans?

James Forge James Forge 10:05 pm 08 Sep 21

Do away with the horse paddocks where does it stop? Plenty of golf courses and sports grounds to redevelop too

George Watling George Watling 9:49 pm 08 Sep 21

Are we really desperate to cook ourselves alive? We need our open spaces to protect us from the urban heat island affect. Without them our health is in periled. New Australian research show we need green spaces in our cities -

Michael Guilfoyle Michael Guilfoyle 1:13 pm 07 Sep 21

Worth more as they are now. Public consulation process done to standard before handing over valuable land to property developers. AUDIT all the way on every detail of the transaction and property developers.

Watch list.

Venetia Sieveking Venetia Sieveking 1:02 pm 07 Sep 21

I’m sure the affluent who can afford horses will lobby enough to keep it.

    Alicia Bellanich Alicia Bellanich 7:37 am 21 Sep 21

    These types of paddocks are like low income housing for horses. The types of people keeping horses in them are far from affluent, they're just regular folks. It costs around the same to keep a horse there as it does to register a car for the year.

Alycia Nevalainen Alycia Nevalainen 8:19 am 07 Sep 21

Judging by the cost of blocks of land in Yarralumla, very few could afford to buy this land if it became available!

shannos shannos 8:13 am 07 Sep 21

ACT Planning and the NCA are allowing developers a free reign. Medium density with green spaces like Paris beats high rise. Canberra requires green spaces to mitigate heat, provide habitat and oxygen. Respect the natural environment-don’t dominate it. Appropriate development and planning is required.

Ann-Elise Koerntjes Ann-Elise Koerntjes 11:04 pm 06 Sep 21

Define a ‘user’ of the land? Must you hike on; ride on or physically touch the space to use it, so I use it if I breathe the air from the trees around the fringes of the green spaces? What if I enjoy the calming effect being surrounded by green has on my commute to work, or am I a user if I enjoy the cooling impact of the evaporative cooling these areas provide?

Michael Jaz Michael Jaz 10:13 pm 06 Sep 21

I think rural gyms are the answer

Jeff Carl Jeff Carl 10:09 pm 06 Sep 21

As the summers get hotter, it is the green oases like the horse paddocks and the green spaces between town centres that will help keep Canberra cooler and a more liveable city. These open areas are thus worth a lot more than their value as yet more of the concrete jungle.

Kate Etchells Kate Etchells 9:56 pm 06 Sep 21

Sadly Canberra will no longer be the BUSH capital, more like the dust bowl, as we remove all nature, but don't worry just add concrete.

Stephen Watt Stephen Watt 9:13 pm 06 Sep 21

We can only live in one house at a time. Time to call a halt to investors and developers outbidding first time owners who are to trying to start out in life.


    Greg Williams Greg Williams 4:54 pm 09 Sep 21

    Agree, but sadly it won't change while so many of the policy makers, real estate agents, developers and politicians from all parties, have their snouts firmly in the trough of greed.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 8:20 pm 06 Sep 21

So much more of this to come when the national borders are re-opened and we get back to full-bore Big Australia.

That’s the real aim of the “National Plan” – the stuff about getting back into the pubs, bars, cafes, gyms etc. etc. is just bait-and-switch window dressing.

shannos shannos 8:08 pm 06 Sep 21

The city needs green space to counter the gutter to gutter non compliant developments that have been allowed to flourish and a proper planning regime to boot. It is not inevitable that green space needs to subsumed for developers. It seems as this article makes it out that development is a fait accompli. Lets see some other jobs such as biotech and pharma industries created like European cities, not just relying on continuous construction and land sales as the ACT Govt supports. . Communities can then work together producing real products and will not have the need for continuing expanding developments for the sake of unnecessary population growth to satisfy developers.

Sivan Zohar Sivan Zohar 7:56 pm 06 Sep 21

Jayde Cleary not my horse paddocks!!

Peter West Peter West 7:49 pm 06 Sep 21

All I can say once again, if NCDC was still there, there would be no infill.

If you fools in favour of these developments, thinking they will bring house prices down. You're dreaming

    George Watling George Watling 9:53 pm 08 Sep 21

    Peter West Dead right. There is research that proves high density development does nothing to bring house prices down.

Dave Rowe Dave Rowe 6:53 pm 06 Sep 21

It would be great if this land, right next to a major transport corridor and only a stone's throw from major employers in the parliamentary triangle, could be used for housing people. Might even put some downward pressure on prices!

    Dave Rowe Dave Rowe 10:58 pm 08 Sep 21

    Hi George. Do you believe that house prices would rise or fall if we stopped building new houses in Canberra?

Daniel Oleanivan Daniel Oleanivan 6:46 pm 06 Sep 21

Alot of people don’t know but the canberra sewer main goes through that paddock and continues all the way past the zoo and arboretum then through to lower whitlam then to the belconnen sewage treatment lol . I worked on it 8 years ago in that paddock it has unbelievable pressure and part of it runs through Lake burley griffin from civic. So good luck building anything near that ?

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