10 May 2024

North Curtin will be denser than Singapore with no facilities, warns residents association

| Ian Bushnell
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Curtin Residents Association president Ian Elsum says what the government is proposing is not medium density. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

Planning Minister Chris Steel has been accused of misleading the public about future housing at North Curtin by calling it a medium-density development.

Curtin Residents Association president Ian Elsum has also called for the consultation currently underway on how the 13-hectare Territory section of the horse paddocks fronting Yarra Glen should be developed to be paused, saying its dearth of information made it inappropriate.

Mr Elsum said the 1300 homes projected for the site would be the densest residential development Canberra had ever seen.

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He said his first calculation of 2.5 residents per dwelling put the area’s population at more than 3000, the size of a new suburb, and density at 25,000 people per square kilometre, more than twice that of New York City as a whole and three times higher than Singapore.

However, the EPSDD’s Jeremy Smith has since said it would be more like Braddon or Kingston, where there are 1.8 residents per dwelling.

Even so, Mr Elsum said this would result in a population of 2340 people and a density of 18,000 people per square kilometre.

“Braddon and Kingston have a density of 5000 people per square kilometre, so we’re 3.5 times denser than Braddon and Kingston,” he said.

“We are now double Singapore. We’re now 60 per cent more dense than central London or New York City.

“This is not a medium-density community; this is a high or very high-density community, and it’s a very large increase in density compared with any other urban development.”

Mr Elsum said residents were not opposed to new housing on the horse paddocks, but with this kind of density, there would be little room for green space unless the buildings were high-rise towers, and the consultation gave little indication about how this new community would work and what roads and facilities would support it.

The 13 ha section of the Curtin horse paddocks where new housing is planned. Photo: ACT Government.

He told Region in August last year, when the government contracted consultancy Communication Link to run the consultation, that there should be 40 per cent green space on the site and building heights limited to three storeys in a genuine medium-density development.

Mr Smith told the ABC that buildings of one to nine storeys were envisaged.

Mr Elsum said Curtin’s concerns were also those of adjacent suburbs, particularly due to traffic impacts on Yarralumla and Deakin.

He said the government believed light rail would solve some of these problems, but the nearest proposed stations were a long way from the horse paddocks, and providing a new one was not a simple project, with the need for raised walkways over Yarra Glen.

Residents were also concerned about education facilities, given Curtin Public School was full and the expanding Garran primary campus could only be reached by car.

Mr Elsum said the identification of the area as a heat island also underlined the importance of green space in any new development.

Planning Minister Chris Steel said the point of this consultation was to hear from the community at the earliest opportunity about the built form, urban and landscape design and design quality before the North Curtin site is released and development occurs.

“We are planning for the development of a well-connected, sustainable, and resilient neighbourhood which provides a choice of housing types to cater for a range of residents’ preferences and needs,” he said.

“Feedback from the community will then be used to help develop the draft Planning Conditions for the North Curtin Residential Area, which will be used to assess future development applications for this site.”

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Mr Steel said a future subdivision plan would show roads, utilities, subdivisions of lots and any other approved uses.

“This process will be subject to the National Capital Authority and their approval processes, including further consultation with the community,” he said.

“With Canberra’s population set to grow to 500,000 by 2030 and more than 780,000 people by 2060, the ACT Government is supporting the supply of new homes, particularly focused on areas close to transport and services, as well as investing in the infrastructure to support them.”

The Commonwealth has reserved the rest of the horse paddocks for new embassies.

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NIMBYs. The CRA executive is run by a handful of people – the same six (or so) people for nearly a decade.

There are 5,500 Curtin residents (and 3,100 in Yarralumla, 3,100 in Deakin, and 3,200 in Hughes).

It is madness to listen to SIX people when more housing will help 15,000 local residents downsize locally or help grandparents live near to grandkids, and provide housing options for thousands of people to live closer to where they work, instead of dooming them to the fringes to suck up a commute, just so a handful of retirees can pass their dotage in peace and quiet.

This is the problem with these “community councils” – run by a handful of retirees who will die much sooner than everyone else, but we will live through and suffer the consequences of NIMBY anti-development decisions for decades and generations to come.

This comment is why we need a “like” feature on this site.

A 6 storey apartment building on a 1000 sqm site, with 50% site coverage, can have 500 sqm of building per floor. That is 3000 sqm in total. An average of 100 sqm per apartment gives 30 apartments.
30 apartments on a 1000 sqm site is 300 dwellings per hectare.

If we take the 13 hectares at Curtin and allocate 30% to roads and another 30% to parks, we have 40% or 5.2 hectares left for development. If we develop this 5.2 hectares with 6 storey buildings (as described above), we get 1560 dwellings. That is 6 storey buildings covering 50% of 40% of the site. The Government is estimating 1300 dwellings.

To those making accusations of NIMBYism, I don’t think the CRA is saying no to development, they’re questioning the proposed density, and the lack of facilities to cater for it like the already fully enrolled school.

18-25kp/km2 is extremely high density, and it will increase Curtin’s population by about 50% in one fell swoop.

If we are to have infill, we need to have the infrastructure to go with it, while retaining public open space that will have increased demand placed upon it.

On the “one to nine stories”, I’d much rather see an upper limit of 4-5, in keeping with Canberra’s – rapidly disappearing – aesthetic of keeping the building envelopes within the valleys’ sight-lines. I’d be happy if that were achieved by having less low-rise.

In summary, yes to urban infill and increased density, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.

Andrew Cooke1:14 pm 14 May 24

Yes it’s high density if it’s replicated over the entire area, otherwise it’s just another pointless statistic, the whole site is 0.13 square kilometers vs. Singapore at 750 square km, of course it’s got greater population density. If you reproduced this density over the entirety of Singapore there would be a population of close to 19 million, or roughly 4 times larger than it currently is.

Canberra has space and lots of it, should we have higher density areas? Absolutely. Should we retain pockets of lower density? Yes definitely.

With the light rail running past the front of the site, maybe the question should be can the density be higher? The Nightfall development in Belconnen has 1300 apartments across about 30000 sq m, you could easily fit 4 of these on this space for a total 5200 apartments. A development of this scale with upwards of 8-9000 residents would likely have it’s own shops,
bars, dining and amenities and would not greatly impact other local residents as it would be largely self contained.

Lets follow the griffin plan, but then bastardise every essence of that plan.
The current development looks like someone that hates canberra and loves mebourne. We’re going to become a grid city with the gridlock that comes with it.

devils_advocate5:46 pm 11 May 24

Who exactly does this “Curtin residents association” represent? They certainly don’t represent views put to them by actual Curtin residents

The increased traffic claim is another “go to” objection by the NIMBY crowd. This development is close to public transport and where is the evidence of all this adverse traffic. These roads are a major link between the South and the City – more “smoke” to protect the current housing owner syndicate.

there is no public transport stops there, any attempt to put them there makes transport slower for most people.

Anyone that can affort there wont be catching public transport anyway..

Tom Worthington10:15 am 11 May 24

Singapore is a very livable city, but it has high rise development with community facilities built in. This is different to the Australian approach of a big building with just home, and no amenities.

There has to be development along the new tram route to pay for the cost of tram, and to provide it with passengers. The new development will need few roads, as the new homes will come mostly without car parking. Like Singapore, the point of providing public transport is for people to use it.

The Commonwealth reserving horse paddocks for new embassies is unrealistic. There is unlikely to be an explosion of new countries created. In an era of international air travel, and electronic communications, the embassies are an expensive anachronism. Canberra doesn’t need a diplomatic Disneyland, with a suburb of embassies built in the style of their country.

We don’t build public transport in order to benefit developers and we have enough passengers already; there is no need for LR and an LR will only increase our travel time.

If future accommodation will all be without car parking, then will we have to build an LR to Batemans Bay?

Governments, including ours, have the privilege of luxury. Besides wanting to be living comfortably, they want “privacy” to protect their secrets, and their host country would want to be in the best position of monitoring them, from whichever angle and from a proper distance. And some would want to move, and some would be moved. Just something that should not concern us ordinary folks.

“We don’t build public transport in order to benefit developers”

No, government sets development policies, and developers are used to fulfill the vision. New public transport

“We don’t build public transport in order to benefit developers”

No, governments set urban development policies, and developers are used to fulfill the planning vision. New public transport infrastructure is always planned with urban development in mind. That’s just how it works. It’s not controversial.

I didn’t follow the rest of your post. Your third paragraph was totally mystifying.

Incidental Tourist8:28 pm 10 May 24

Horse paddock in a middle of national capital doesn’t make sense. If selling prime location land can pay off some of our debt I am for it. But this is a job for a different chief minister. Current mob will at best waste it all like a drunk sailor in port’s pub. Worse if they use the land sale revenue as a leverage to borrow even more.

Stephen Saunders4:46 pm 10 May 24

This being Big Australia, we must start from the answer – to double the population of Canberra – and work backwards.

North Curtin is just the warmup act. Wait till the government and developers get to work on their so-called “Western Edge”, nearly 10,000 ha.

Yeah. The same complainers about this development almost certainly support high immigration, but can’t or won’t see the connection. I say they almost certainly support high immigration, because anyone — especially in Canberra or any of the inner city electorates — who questions it is immediately branded a far right wing extremist. Canberrans swing very much the other way. So suck it up Canberra, this actually is exactly what you want, this is a preview of your future.

Jenny Graves4:19 pm 10 May 24

“Feedback from the community will then be used to help develop the draft Planning Conditions for the North Curtin Residential Area, which will be used to assess future development applications for this site.”

What, like all the other feedback that the ACT government just gets and then ignores? We all know that they will do exactly as they like, whatever we say!

Here we go again, it’s like watching endless reruns of A Current Affair. NIMBY residents emerge, insisting the sky is falling when it’s exaggerated. Increased density is necessary, presenting an ideal solution. Local “residents” behave like monopolistic cartels, protecting property prices, seeking disaster and blame to cloud rational discourse.

Trish O'Connor5:14 pm 10 May 24

ah yes proth57 but it is not the increased density of housing only but the resultant traffic density – not much room for new roads to take the extra, so huge traffic congestion in this area and everywhere else. it seems traffic is the least of the government’s concern when making all this revenue.

Andrew Carson3:06 pm 10 May 24

This guy makes one good point that we should take note of (and ignore all his ignorance). There is a big gap between proposed stations on the light rail line and this development will be right in the middle of that gap. There absolutely should be a stop across from the development. I think he overstates the difficulty of building a stop there. However, it will be easier to build it from the outset and not try to add it later. This should be a no-brainer. Here’s hoping the planners rectify this, otherwise there will be congestion problems and unnecessary emissions, traffic noise, etc.

It’s almost like there are no votes in placing a stop in plans for residents who don’t exist yet, despite it being obviously needed if the development goes ahead. Or that not having a stop in the initial plans will artificially lower the estimates for total trip time……

It looks like Canberra, as it is, is being destroyed. Really horrifying.

Nothing like having massive congestion in the bush capital. Queanbeyan and surrounds here we come.

I think this man has never been to Singapore. Besides it’s not actually very crowded in Singapore – the difference is that they maintain the density and don’t let it taper off into suburbs like we have in Canberra. So its spread out quite nicely has plenty of parks with facilities and people in them (unlike Canberra with all our grassy blank spaces). People have to live somewhere, and better here in the middle of the City than keeping up with the sprawl into virgin grasslands and forest.

Margaret Freemantle11:13 pm 11 May 24

I often bemuse at our blank grassy spaces. Make them useful .

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