5 September 2021

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

| Ian Bushnell
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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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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.

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

ACT Planning and the NCA are allowing developers a free reign. https://www.linkedin.com/posts/world-economic-forum_hold-the-skyscrapers-high-density-low-rise-activity-6838923459498700801-krSx 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.

HiddenDragon8:20 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.

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.

Daniel Oleanivan6:46 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 ?

it is ACT government policy to inflate the land market in Canberra as it is sole source of their income
Why not like other state land development in ACT is not private ? why the hell in country like Australia there is shortage of land ?

Capital Retro2:53 pm 06 Sep 21

I think AQIS still classes Canberra as “a rural destination”. If the horse paddocks go we will no longer be able to call ourselves “the bush capital”.

And the zoo will have to import dead horse meat to feed the carnivores.

ChrisinTurner1:53 pm 06 Sep 21

I wonder if the trees will be protected? The ACT government does not protect trees on government land or nature strips.

John Kerry Tozer1:41 pm 06 Sep 21

…and now, for the biggest “shrug of the shoulders” of all time: “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.”

Every time these articles are thrown open to facebook comments I feel like Mayor Quimby: ‘Are these morons getting louder or just dumber?’

After another day of responses it is clear that, as in Springfield, the answer is both.

Whilst we do have to protect open spaces, some of the claims around the Curtin horse paddocks are ridiculous.

They are ideally suited for development into medium and high density, being on major transport thoroughfares both north south and east west.

And it’s not like the land is currently high value public open space, they are used by a tiny minority of mainly well off horse owners.

If ever there was land that should be developed, this is it.

Completely agree chewy – the focus needs to be primarily on good development in the logical places in the city where it should happen. This being one of them – there is little need for the current use of that site to be in such a prime part of the overall city.

Do you work for Geocon? Or just promoting property developers and the concreting of Canberra out of misguided naivity?

It certainly seems weird that prime high density space on the Light Rail stage 2 line was handed over to NCA for low density Embassies.

If there’s a suitable place for high density in Canberra this goes as close to fitting the bill as any other green space.

Acton,
Thanks for that meaningless reply.

The ironic thing being that I have no personal involvement or anything to gain here other than a drive for a better designed and planned city.

Whereas most of the people opposing these moves are doing so out of pure self interest. Most of them older, wealthy inner city land owners who want to prevent others from having access to the same level of amenity that they currently enjoy. All the while continuing to profit from the unsustainable property ponzi.

BJ,
The ACT government has still retained the land directly adjacent to Adelaide Avenue, so there’s room for both.

I guess I was trying to say that the maps showed that the vast majority of the land swap for the embassies was within 800m of Yarra Glen, which surprised me, considering that’s what they use as their light rail development corridor measure.

BJ,
No doubt the higher density areas could have been bigger but obviously the government was weighing up the value of the West Basin area in doing the deal.

Particularly when if they wanted to, the NCA and Feds could mandate specific land to be acquired for embassies anyway.

The ACT Greens/Labor/Geocon coalition plans to turn all of these useless, wasted bucolic green spaces into rows of multi-storey, high density, same looking blocks of cramped shoddy apartments. Think Northbourne Avenue. Everywhere. They can do whatever they like because there is no effective opposition party and no accountability. Nor is there any appreciation for inner city nature and for what is about to be lost from habitual Barrrr voting sheeple who care nothing for the soul and uniqueness of the city they call home.

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