10 February 2023

Private school faces fight to make temporary car park on public land permanent

| Ian Bushnell
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Temporary car park

The temporary car park opposite Canberra Grammar School in Monaro Crescent. Photos: Ian Bushnell.

One of Canberra’s wealthiest private schools has been accused of a land grab over its plans to make permanent what was supposed to have been a temporary car park.

Canberra Grammar School has lodged a development application to seal the current gravel car park on public open space opposite the school on Monaro Crescent, which it had used while building projects on its campus were underway.

The proposed bitumen car park of 86 car spaces will be open to the public, but Griffith Narrabundah Community Association president Dr David Denham said this “creep of the loss of public space” would be resisted.

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Dr Denham said the Association had not objected to the school’s temporary use of the land, but Grammar had now gone back on that understanding.

“From 2019 to the middle of last year, the policy has been for the school to put it back to its original state once the construction of various buildings and facilities had finished,” he said.

“It comes down to 2023, and of course, there are no more structures so they want to put in a special car park fully bitumenised for 86 cars.

“It’s taking away public open space, vast areas of it, and the school should have catered for the parking.”

Mr Denham said according to regulations for public open spaces, a car park was prohibited.

He said Transport Canberra and City Services’ support for the DA showed how inconsistent the government was on planning issues.

“It’s at variance with what [Planning Minister] Mick Gentleman said about having fewer car parks,” he said.

“In one directorate, they want fewer car parks, and in another, they’re banging them in all over Canberra.”

Mr Denham said the car park would set a bad precedent and showed the government could not be trusted.

Oval at Canberra Grammar

Canberra Grammar School is one of the city’s biggest and wealthiest schools.

Other planning points of contention include the use of land on one block to service another and the proposal’s classification as a minor development.

Martin Male said the car park issue was part of a pattern of of behaviour of Grammar spreading on to public land, including the ovals the school now uses across Monaro Crescent.

Mr Male, who started a dog group 20 years ago, said the ovals were originally off-leash dog walking areas but the school gradually encroached on the land, and eventually it was rezoned to Grammar’s advantage in 2019.

The government had admitted the rezoning was mistake but it was too late to change it back.

“What they’re doing is trying to gain access to that whole area because they’ve run out of land on their own site,” he said.

Mr Male said the school had spent $100 million on two buildings, one of which was meant to have a car park but was deemed too costly.

“Now they’re just grabbing the public land and using that instead,” he said.

“There was never any consultation about the playing fields and they’ve tried to do the same with the car park.”

The DA says the proposed car park will be handed to TCCS as an asset and the school will be issued a licence under the Planning and Development Act to manage and maintain it.

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The car park is to be line-marked, lit and landscaped on its edges with additional trees planted.

The DA says the car park is on unleased Territory Land and TCCS is identified as the custodian.

Canberra Grammar did not respond to questions about why it needed the car park to become a permanent facility.

The DA is open to comments until 22 February.

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Make it paid parking.

Should be returned to community in an approved state

So when CGS collects all these former community blocks of land, it might decide to connect them together to sell off for housing, or use them to expand other income. Where’s the payback for the community???

Private schools often disregard community needs to enrich themselves, so nothing new here.

St Clare’s won’t allow a community footpath to be built around the outside of the school, because it would mean giving up a very tiny bit of their land for community use. Meanwhile there are no footpaths bordering Sturt Ave & Canberra Avenue, because this church school won’t allow it.

What happened to Christian values of looking after others?

Stephen Saunders7:32 am 11 Feb 23

John Howard still governs in absentia. The unbreakable LibLabGreenTeal political settlement is: church schools come first.

The Fed now gives $15b to these schools, which is more than we give to the unis. Least the ACT can do is chip in some free land.

Russell Bradney1:21 pm 10 Feb 23

Please don’t do this ACT Government. We need to protect our green open spaces. Please don’t put the desires of private schools to expand, over the needs of the wider community and public green land that has been protected on the Territory plan….. It’s not right.

Not to mention that we should be focusing on sustainable transport in 2023, not car centric design, especially in the inner south. The priorities are way out of wack.

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