In a further example of the poor planning and clayton’s consultation that attends such matters regular users have been surprised by a proposal to appropriate part of the Aranda Oval Playing Fields to re-site Fire and Emergency Services facilities in Lathlain Street. Apparently the ESA began consultations in November, but, of course, this appears to be the usual burying it on a website. Apparently they were to be discussing it with the local community – but large sectors of the local community had no idea until recently that it was being consulted – or had been – the consultation ending just before Christmas – cute.
OK – let us assume a decent effort was made to consult – riddle me this one batman – how come the exact plans have not been released publicly? Some plans have been shown but largely it is a mystery. The closest to the new station are 2 primary schools, 1 high school, a senior citizens nursing home and residential apartments. Others affected are the very large number of users of the playing fields. It does not appear to have factored into the planning that the proposed land grab will increase congestion, present traffic hazards for a larger proportion of people, mainly youth and children, as well as treat some of the frailest in our community to the prospect of sirens at any hour of the day and night. Of course the usual noises about increased congestion at the current sites could be raised, but that is a direct result of poor planning decisions in the Belconnen Precinct. The irony – making more poor planning decisions in response to the result of poor planning. Genius. Of course the old sites will probably be flogged off for profit. Double genius.
A lobby group has started which sets out 6 damn good reasons to protect public open space from poor planning land grabs. These are as follows:
1. The plan cuts into the healthy green heart of the district – they are the nearest irrigated public playing fields for Cook, Macquarie, Aranda, South Bruce, Emu Ridge and the Belconnen town centre. The fields are used for organised sports, by the adjacent three schools and by many individuals. The fields help improve public health, and support our public school system.
2. They will be needed more in the future – The population of this district is planned by government to increase dramatically over the next 40 years. There are already multi-story apartments nearby, including across the road from the playing fields. The new nearby town of Molonglo will need access to playing fields (because it lacks flat ground for its own needs). Once taken away, open space cannot be replaced. At the founding of Belconnen this land was prudently set aside for future sporting and recreations needs, and it should be kept for the future.
3. It spoils the landscape -The green and open space provides delightful vistas looking into and out from the fields. The proposal will spoil both of these. The effect is particularly strong at these playing fields because it has a short street frontage. This short street frontage landscape would be dominated by emergency facilities and extra traffic lights and warning signs.
4. The long term future of the ovals are at risk – this is a very thin end of a wedge – The proposal makes the smallest district playing fields in Belconnen even smaller. This will make it a less attractive venue for sports codes, and reduce the ability to cater for changing sporting preferences in the future. Fewer players will inevitably mean reduced maintenance. This oval is designed as a stormwater overflow. Building on part of it risks the remainder becoming frequently too boggy for safe play. The Government did not assess the long term impact on sporting needs before making this proposal.
5. Bad planning to fix bad planning is a poor precedent – The government failed to reserve a site for one of our most crucial community services, the ESA. Instead over recent years suitable sites have been sold off. The Government now says they have no option but to raid the playing fields to provide for the ESA. This lets them sell the current ESA site near Belconnen Mall. Bad planning deserves to be exposed, and lessons should be learnt. Bad planning should not be rewarded by windfall profits from property sales. Otherwise the Government will be back in five, ten or twenty years for another slice of the oval to make up for the next planning bungle.
6. Act now or lose these facilities in the future (you could be next) – Once the Government goes down the path of seeking Assembly approval to build on the playing fields it will not want to change. We need to show the Government and Assembly Members now that the community places a high value on the playing fields, to ensure the government finds another site. Indeed, other sites for the ESA facilities may offer a better average response time for emergency services than the playing fields.
OK – I expect the usual suspects will troll out the usual NIMBY comments – (usually made by the intellectually dishonest who, ironically, will not be getting it in their backyard) – however this is an issue of wide ranging effect upon an exceedingly large cross section of the Belconnen Community. Anyone disparaging as NIMBYISM would need to give themselves an uppercut. Still, we beat these buggers when it came to the GDE, Belconnen Busway and such other follies. We can do it again. Funny – Minister Corbell’s planning decisions always never seem to have the worst effect in his own electorate. Damn funny, that.