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Outrage at ACTPLA deal on Coombs development

Ian Bushnell 16 December 2019 11
Colbung Street and Arthur Blakely Way

A render of the original proposal. It will now be five storeys instead of seven. Images: POD Projects.

A deal to wave through a multi-unit development in Coombs that had twice been rejected has left community members fuming.

POD Projects and the ACT Planning and Land Authority reached an out-of-session agreement on 29 November over a seven-storey, 107-unit proposal for the corner of Colbung Street and Arthur Blakely Way (Coombs Section 39, Block 4).

The deal will see the proposal lose two storeys and 10 units, and add more car parking, landscaping and communal green space.

But the site was sold with a maximum yield of only 40 dwellings and the outcome will still mean a 143 per cent increase on that.

ACTPLA explained there was a “reasonable prospect” that the development would be approved if it went to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Founder of the Save Molonglo Facebook page Ryan Hemsley, who has campaigned against this and other similar proposals, says this suggests there are serious holes in the Territory Plan, and the notion of good, orderly development has been thrown out the window.

“Thirteen months and two refusals later, we’re still ending up with a development that dramatically exceeds the maximum permitted number of units allocated to the site as part of the estate development planning process,” he says.

“What I find it baffling is ACTPLA’s apparent inability to defend its own decisions before the ACAT. There is now a real danger that developers will see this capitulation as a green light for lodging equally inappropriate development applications in the future.”

Mr Hemsley says the refusal notices for the original development application and its reconsideration request outlined in very clear terms why this development proposal was inconsistent with rules and criteria of the Territory Plan.

He says that without access to the amended plans, which have already been approved, it is very difficult to determine how it could have been made compliant.

“This whole saga raises serious questions about the worth of the Territory Plan as a defence against bad development. This is something that I hope the upcoming Molonglo Valley Planning Review takes a good, hard look at.”

His sentiments are echoed in comments on the Save Molonglo Facebook page. One person commented: “If I knew there was going to be this many apartments I may not have even moved into the area. How can they change land zoned for 40 units to 97 [sic].”

Another wrote: “I’m surprised that approval can be granted to a 7-storey building, subject to a condition of consent that it being modified to a 5 storey building. In effect consent was granted to a building no one has seen yet. Way to go ACT !!! The application should have been withdrawn and resubmitted as a 5 storey building.”

Revised plans showing the changes to the development will need to be lodged with the ACT Planning and Land Authority within 28 days of the decision, which took effect on 29 November.

The original plans for the site included seven storeys and 123 units, and prompted 101 objections from people concerned at the developer cramming so many units on the site, the small size of the units, the lack of green space, and the overshadowing on neighbouring homes.

ACTPLA agreed and also threw out POD’s reconsideration bid, saying the changes did not go far enough, and the fundamental issues of building height and bulk, dwelling density and resident amenity had not been dealt with.

“Ad hoc consideration of a large increase in dwelling yield resulting in inappropriate bulk and scale within an existing area that has already been developed in accordance with the EDP [Estate Development Plan] undermines the planning system and sets an undesirable precedent,” the Notice of Decision said.

But now ACTPLA has cut a deal, grabbing what concessions it could, in the face of possible defeat in the Tribunal.


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11 Responses to Outrage at ACTPLA deal on Coombs development
Robert McMahon Robert McMahon 10:37 pm 19 Dec 19

Just imagine what the price would have been if it had sold with approval for 107 units. The community is rightly getting peeved about these all too often post event concessions

Ingrid Mears Ingrid Mears 10:14 pm 17 Dec 19

And what about the horrid development in the city, Belconnen and Gungahlin.... absolutely dreadful

Michelle van Lier Michelle van Lier 8:13 pm 17 Dec 19

Colbung/Arthur Blakely is already congested with cars that have nowhere else to park - I can only see this problem increasing with 104 new residences! ACTPLA should stick to original zoning limits - developer bought the land zoned for 40 units - don’t entertain submissions with a single unit more!

How can this be remotely fair for anyone who has purchased nearby that will be shadowed by a giant development.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 6:56 pm 17 Dec 19

“….the site was sold with a maximum yield of only 40 dwellings and the outcome will still mean a 143 per cent increase on that….”

The rules and policies are just window dressing – it’s all about the money.

Alex Troy Elsworth Adkins Alex Troy Elsworth Adkins 5:40 pm 17 Dec 19

There is such a lack of transparency in the planning system in Canberra. The Strategic planning following communiy consultation decided 40 units was suitable for the site... then the government sells it to the developer potentially promising more to get more money for the site and then there is little ground to refuse a larger development... the system needs a desperate rethink...

    Hamish Sinclair Hamish Sinclair 6:58 pm 17 Dec 19

    Alex Troy Elsworth Adkins it rots from the top

Spiral Spiral 1:09 pm 17 Dec 19

I don’t have an opinion on whether a building of that size should be built there.

But I do believe that if the site was zoned for 40 dwellings when it was sold, then that is the maximum number that should be allowed.

If 107 is allowed, then that is what it should have been sold as.

I wonder if when I build my next house I can get away with buying a standard block then construct a 3 story building containing three dwellings.

Based on this decision it appears that everyone should be able to get away with that.

Shiva Sapkota Shiva Sapkota 10:45 am 17 Dec 19

That’s the way the government can make housing cheaper. The public housing ratio for Molonglo could then be increased to 1/3 from from 12% now with a lot of chip units like this one.

Kriso Hadskini Kriso Hadskini 10:30 am 17 Dec 19

Oh well it will fit right in with the other gulags they built out there.

Chele Forest Chele Forest 10:23 am 17 Dec 19

What is the point of putting conditions on the sale of land if they never stick to them? It's more like a suggested occupancy

Linda Seaniger Linda Seaniger 9:35 am 17 Dec 19

The ACT Labor government has no idea what good planning & land management looks like. We still lack the most basic facilities Like shops and decent roads or bus services through to Belconnen In Coombs. Which are also imperative for the suburb of Whitlam and yet Andrew Barr does nothing. Coolomon court is a joke you can never find a park even mid week in the middle of the day. All I can think is we must have a lot of ministers on the take or the territory is so drastically in debit for us to ignore the problems is long. Our quality of life is deteriorating and the Capital of Australia is no longer an attractive well planned landscaped city. But we do have an enormous quality of extremely ugly small apartments with little beautification. Has any of our planners have any idea what a good urban environment what look like? I think not. The big rush to push developers projects through is on we will be forced to live with more stupid mistakes in the future.

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