The ACT Conservator for Flora and Fauna, Ian Walker, has sent a clear message to developers that Canberra’s trees are important community assets, in rejecting a bid to cancel the registration of a mature London Plane tree in Manuka.
The tree at 15 Franklin Street is on Section 96, where the Liangis family plans to construct a major hotel.
The Planning and Land Authority approved the development last October, subject to certain conditions, including the deregistering of the tree, which awaited Mr Walker’s decision.
The developer had sought to remove the tree from the ACT Tree Register, on which it was placed in May 2012 in recognition of its contribution to the landscape and aesthetic value.
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Mr Walker said it was important that developments were innovative in how they incorporated – and benefited from – existing trees.
“The decision does not preclude future development from taking place, it seeks to consider how trees are incorporated into developments bringing living infrastructure into designs to cool the city, provide habitat for wildlife, maintain air quality and create a sense of place for future generations,” Mr Walker said.
Mr Walker considered a range of factors in his decision, including public submissions, information from the proponent, advice from the independent tree advisory panel, advice from the ACT’s Chief Planner and advice from the interim National Capital Design Review Panel.
“I hope that by maintaining the tree’s protective status, it will continue its long life and people will further appreciate it as a natural focal point of the Manuka landscape,” he said.
The developer will now have to incorporate the tree into the development or launch an appeal.
Griffith/Narrabundah Community Association Leo Dobes said residents were delighted at the decision and that due process appears to have been followed.
“We are grateful to all the public servants and people who worked behind the scenes on this. We are happy that the outcome is a good one,” he said.
Mr Dobes said the National Capital Design Review Panel had also had concerns about the proposal’s architectural aspects and could not see why the tree couldn’t be incorporated into the design.
“We’re very heartened to see the Government is now paying attention to what the panel said,” he said.
The DA covered Blocks 3 and 4 and proposed a European-style, neo-classical seven-storey hotel, as the first stage of a major redevelopment of the area from the Capitol Cinema to Flinders Way.
The 822 square metre Section 96 site takes in two significant corners – Franklin Street and Flinders Way, which forms a gateway to the Manuka Group Centre café and retail precinct directly abutting the cinema site, also owned by the Liangis family, and Flinders Way and Canberra Avenue.
The $11.4 million Capitol Hotel proposal is Stage 1. Stage 2, which is still being designed, extends to Blocks 1, 2 and 5, with the buildings on that site, including the cinema, to be demolished.
The proposed 58-room hotel, designed by Cox Architecture, will include a basement carpark, ground-level lobby and hotel reception, café/restaurant and back of house areas, five levels of accommodation, external signage and rooftop plant and equipment.
Canberra Town Planning, which prepared the DA, would not comment on the decision.