Community activists concerned at the direction of Canberra have called for pause in the approval of major projects, heritage listing of Lake Burley Griffin and a new design competition to guide the development of the National Capital in its second century.
Five resolutions from last week’s public meeting on planning and development in the ACT at a packed Albert Hall are to be sent to the Federal Minister for the National Capital and External Territories, the ACT Chief Minister, and the ACT Legislative Assembly.
Lake Burley Griffin Guardians convenor Juliet Ramsay said a key concern at the meeting was a lack of real community consultation about proposed developments.
“There hasn’t been enough people involved in the planning. What has happened is the Government has made decisions on planning then done a token consultation, then the development has started. It’s a huge concern,” she said.
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The more than 400 people at the meeting convened by former Chief Minister Jon Stanhope heard a litany of complaints about the ACT’s planning authorities that must have had Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate head Ben Ponton’s ears burning as he sat through the night.
From the Griffin plan being nibbled away, to a piecemeal approach to planning, to a lack of enforcement of the Directorate’s own rules, to precinct codes being ignored, to the poor architecture and loss of heritage and green space, it was a telling indictment of the Labor Government’s record.
Ms Ramsay denied people were just resistant to change or concerned that the city was growing.
“People are concerned about the city changing but I don’t think we are generally concerned about good changes. Constitution Avenue has been tidied up and people appreciate that,” she said.
One resolution calls for ‘active and demonstrable community engagement on the vision and reshaping of Canberra’, from both Federal and ACT politicians, particularly on the ACT Government’s planning strategy refresh.
“We believe there needs to be a pause in the approval of further large-scale developments that will impact on the long-term form of the city until this community engagement is completed,” it says.
Another calls for both levels of government, under the National Capital Plan and the Territory Plan, to develop precinct codes, local area plans, heritage overlays/management plans,
environmental and character values for individual precincts that are both enforceable and enforced in future planning.
The meeting also called for the ACT and Australian Governments to support heritage listing for Lake Burley Griffin and its landscape setting, and to halt all plans to infill part of the lake and appropriate the foreshore for an apartment estate at West Basin.
Accusing Chief Minister Andrew Barr of having an appalling attitude to heritage, Ms Ramsay said the Lake Burley Griffin Guardians were desperately concerned about West Basin.
“It started as City to the Lake but now we don’t see City to the Lake at all but the development of the apartments is still on the books,” Ms Ramsay said.
“They are privatising that land and privatising the vistas. It’s such a strategic and important bit of land and has the potential to be wonderful.”
The final resolution, which came from the floor of the meeting, calls for the Australian and ACT Governments to undertake a new international design competition to guide planning for the second century of the Nation’s Capital.
Ms Ramsay acknowledged the ACT Government’s economic pressures, which would only be exacerbated by the cost of light rail, but said it needed other sources of income besides property rates and land sales.
“It can’t just go on selling land forever,” she said.