21 January 2019

Need for more childcare spaces questioned in Hawker

| John Thistleton
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Render from the DA.

Submissions close next Thursday, 31 January, on a fresh development application to vary a lease to allow a 130-place childcare centre to be developed on a part of the Hawker Tennis Club site.

Developers Pelle Projects and Regional Investments gained approval in 2016 to vary the lease.

That approval lapsed and an application to vary the lease for a project worth $2.284 million, which includes 40 car park spaces, has been lodged for planning approval. The proposed childcare building footprint is only a small proportion of the site. The remaining site area will be subject to a separate development application in the future.

Some residents think that while the tennis club hasn’t operated since 2012, the recreational needs of the Hawker area are stronger than the demand for child care.

While not commenting on this specific development, Communities at Work acting chief executive Lee Maiden says Canberra is over-supplied with childcare places. She says many new services have opened across the territory, but occupancy remains low at many of them.

Friends of Hawker Village believe the developers are working incrementally to build a childcare centre, followed by a medium housing project comprising up to 58 two-storey townhouses.

Friends of Hawker Village secretary Robyn Coghlan says at public presentations in March last year the developers raised the possibility of 58 two-storey townhouses. This would require a re-zoning to allow residential development.

Ms Coghlan says demand for recreation space will increase as the nearby Ginninderry development at West Belconnen progresses, as well as the start of a new Molonglo suburb, Whitlam.

“Our antenna are raised. The government already approved the lease variation. I don’t know why they bother to put out lease variations for public comment, they always seem to approve them,” Ms Coghlan says.

The proposed childcare centre at 19 Walhallow Street occupies 3,133 square metres of a 12,600 square metre site, and would operate between 7 am to 6 pm.

In a previous submission, Ms Coghlan says since the original owners and developers of the tennis centre, Bruce and Stephanie Larkham, retired to the coast, little effort has been put into maintaining the Hawker Tennis Centre as a viable business operation.

Ms Coghlan said in her submission it would be a loss to the ACT community if the remaining tennis courts were destroyed.

Ms Coghlan’s submission in 2016 noted two new childcare centres at Kippax – the YMCA (90 places) already completed and another on Southern Cross Drive (122 places) had just started construction.

At the time, another one of about 100 places was proposed for the former Higgins preschool site. Scullin also had two existing childcare facilities.

“Childcare seems to be highly attractive to investors at present. It would be regrettable if supply were to exceed demand in the future and lead to the loss of the entire Hawker site for sporting or other recreational activities,” she said.

In 2016, the ACT Government said it would continue identifying sites for childcare but would add additional lease purposes to the land in acknowledgement of an oversupply.

Comment has been sought from the developers.

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