11 November 2023

Proposed planning change sets parameters for 300-unit Forestry School redevelopment in Yarralumla

| Ian Bushnell
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two women leaning on a sign

NCA CEO Sally Barnes and Director Strategic Planning Rebecca Sorensen at the Forestry Place site: this is the time to get it right. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

The proposed Forestry Place redevelopment at Yarralumla is a step closer with the National Capital Authority releasing for consultation a proposed amendment to the National Capital Plan to change the land use for the 10.4-hectare site.

Sydney developer Oakstand Property Group, on behalf of Gunyar Pty Ltd, which represents the Shepherd Foundation, proposes to build between 250 and 300 apartment units, a small boutique hotel, an aged care facility and commercial offices on the former Australian Forestry School and CSIRO site (Block 7 Section 4 Yarralumla).

Draft Amendment 97 will rezone the land from community facility to mixed-use and set out a range of conditions for the site, which this or any developer will have to meet.

If approved, the amendment will allow up to 300 homes on the site, restrict building heights to three storeys with attics and allow basement car parking.

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NCA Director Strategic Planning Rebecca Sorensen said the landscape would be key.

Sixty per cent of the site will be retained as open space and 45 per cent of that will be for deep root planting and the new buildings would sit in the landscape according to its topography within the tree line.

“The policy that we’ve written effectively tries to maintain the trees, particularly around the perimeter of the site, but also between any new buildings,” Ms Sorensen said.

“The expectation we have is that there’ll be soft landscaping, canopy trees, deep root planting, so all those good things that can help retain the character around here now.”

The oval is not part of the redevelopment and Yarralumla residents will still to be able to walk through the grounds when the redevelopment is complete.

diagram of proposed devleopment

Proposed development on the former Australian Forestry School and CSIRO site. Image: Supplied.

The amendment provides for generous setbacks around the perimeter of the site, 50 metres and 80 metres at the front and 20 metres at the rear where it abuts the Royal Canberra Golf Club, which will limit the number of trees that need to be removed.

After several years of consultation about what to do with the site, NCA CEO Sally Barnes said the amendment was quite prescriptive to keep faith with the community.

“We’re codifying heights, we’re codifying landscapes, we’re codifying where the building envelope is, this is the real time to get that right,” she said.

“The same planning framework will be in place for whoever owns the site.”

Ms Sorensen said the amendment also set high design standards for the residential component with minimum apartment sizes and requirements for adequate sunlight and cross ventilation.

The development will also have to be ready for electric vehicle charging.

Ms Sorensen said development on the site fitted with the goal of strategically located housing next to public transport and would also allow Yarralumla people to age in place.

“This one definitely ticks the boxes – close to transport, close to the city, close to a population that will be aging and therefore turning housing over,” she said.

The proposal cleared Commonwealth environmental and heritage approvals, with conditions, earlier in the year. However, the developer will still need to submit work approvals to the NCA once the amendment is approved.

render of he proposed development

An early render of the proposed redevelopment. Image: Kann Finch.

The Yarralumla Community Association still believes the proposal is too big despite the NCA trimming building heights from five storeys to three in 2021.

Earlier in the year, after the environmental approval was combined with the nearby Brickworks development, vice-president Mike Lewis said the increase in traffic, parking needs and loss of amenity would impact residents.

“It’s all too much,” he said.

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The Shepherd Foundation, a charity that assists children with hearing loss, welcomed the release of DA97 for consultation, saying it takes the project forward.

It said the proposal envisaged a mix of residential apartments, independent living units with an aged care component, as well as the conservation of the heritage buildings with commercial adaptive reuse.

The residential dwellings would be mainly single-level, dual aspect, oversized two to three-bedroom apartments with large courtyards or generous balconies.

The Foundation said proceeds from the development would be used to maintain the heritage buildings and treescape into the future.

To learn more, visit the NCA website. Submissions can be sent to draft.amendment97@nca.gov.au.

Public consultation will close on 22 December.

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Peter Saunders1:36 am 14 Nov 23

This article focuses on the up to 300 residents, but appears to have missed key issues such as the density and traffic to be generated by the proposed 80 bed hotel and 130 bed residential aged care facility. Perhaps they are hoping to solve the projected traffic nightmare with their proposal to reroute the 57 Bus route down Bentham Street in front of the Yarralumla shops. Clearly the people putting this proposal together do not know Canberra and have not visited the Yarralumla Shops in Bentham Street. Perhaps the buses could be timed so that they pass each other in front of the shops!

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