The loss of proposed office buildings to more residential highrises in the Gungahlin town centre has cast a shadow over the ACT Government’s updated plan for Gungahlin, with residents concerned about the lack of jobs in the growing suburb.
The 2010 Gungahlin Town Centre Planning Report allocated 200,000 square metres to office buildings; the latest plan has cut office space to 100,000 square metres after only 13,500 square metres of commercial office floor space in the suburb of Gungahlin had been taken up by 2016.
The plan recommended a “more informed” target of 100,000 square metres for commercial office floor space over the long term, taking into account the opportunities that light rail will present and the amount of undeveloped land available in the town centre.
“The 100,000 square metre target equates to approximately one square metre of commercial office space per resident in the Gungahlin district,” the plan said.
Gungahlin Community Council president Peter Elford said he was concerned about how much land was zoned for residential buildings compared to office blocks.
“They are looking to allow residential buildings at a much greater scale than had originally been designed and the amount of land zoned and reserved for office blocks has significantly decreased since the 2010 report,” Mr Elford told Region Media.
“Their rationale is that they haven’t seen a demand. If they are not seeing the demand, perhaps we need to do something to generate the demand. Also, once that land is lost, it is lost for the next generation.”
Mr Elford said other major town centres have big government agencies driving their job growth, with Tuggeranong home to the Department of Social Services, while Department of Home Affairs was in Belconnen.
“Apart from the ACT Government’s own building which employs around 500 staff, we don’t have much in Gungahlin,” he said. “I don’t think this is how Canberra was envisaged.
“In a perfect outcome, we would have the employment base of Canberra distributed around the town centres in a sensible way but Gungahlin has not had any substantial investment for office infrastructure.”
Yerrabi MLA and Minister for Employment, Disability and Government Procurement Suzanne Orr, representing Minister for Planning and Land Management Mick Gentleman, said the plan balances the opportunities for different types of development over coming years.
Ms Orr said there will also be more business and employment opportunities in Gungahlin with more office buildings planned for the town centre while preserving the town centre’s village feel.
“The Gungahlin town centre has grown and evolved since the last planning study in 2010, attracting new residents, business and investment,” Ms Orr said. “Light rail is also changing the centre’s dynamics.
“We know the Gungahlin community wants to see more employment opportunities within the town centre, that’s why two large blocks of land in the centre will be reserved for large-scale office buildings. They are close to the light rail corridor to make it easy for office workers to commute.
“There are already some positive signs of renewed interest in the centre with Defence Housing Australia recently announcing it would bring its headquarters and 290 employees to the centre in 2022. We look forward to seeing more interest in our town centre.”
Buildings of up to 10 storeys will also now be permitted along the light rail corridor, stepping down to six and three storeys on the town centre fringe while a minimum building height of four storeys will be permitted along Flemington Road and three storeys along the northern side of The Valley Avenue.
Mr Elford said the height restrictions seemed “sensible” and is consistent with feedback from the community but said the “horse had already bolted” in the west Gungahlin precinct, with large scale high rises already approved in the area.
To view the Gungahlin plan and to have your say, click here.