North Watson is set to be the home of a new housing estate and neighbourhood park after Minister for Planning and Land Management Mick Gentleman approved a variation to the Territory Plan for Watson Section 76.
A Place Plan and Development Concept was developed through consultation with the community to guide future development in Watson.
While the place plan for the project addressed several concerns raised by Watson residents, the Watson Community Association remains concerned the block will bring yet another “cookie-cutter” development to the area.
Watson Community Association planning sub-committee chair Simon Clarke said the current plan was a step in the right direction and the community accepted that development “was always going to happen” at the site.
He warned, however, the “devil was in the detail” with the Place Plan.
“The place plan that the government has put out is very glossy but, with the exception of a couple of labelled government promises, it doesn’t really tell us a lot,” Mr Clarke said.
“It doesn’t tell us what trees will be kept. It says keep most of the trees. Now what that means is questionable.
“While we’re happy with this park, happy that these trees are going to be retained and happy that there’s pedestrian and cycling links, there is a lot left unsaid in that Place Plan.”
The community association has concerns for the superb parrot and the regent honeyeater, who have historically fed in the area, and has questions regarding traffic management, the management of the build and what the expected quality of the building will be.
“The overall decision, I think, is inevitable, and I think one of the hallmarks of a good community association is that you have to recognise when things are inevitable and say, ‘look, we can’t fight that, but let’s look at what we can change’,” Mr Clarke said.
“It’s now going to be really important to scrutinise how they’re going to divide it up, who it’s going to be sold to and what the conditions of sale are going to be.”
The Place Plan acknowledged the historical concerns of Watson residents wanting to ensure that the development is “sensitive to the local character of the suburb”. Mr Clarke supported the government’s commitment to protecting trees and leaving cycleways and pedestrian corridors as a “characteristic of the inner north”. He did, however, argue that several parts of the plan would detract from this character.
“The whole southern end of the block is gazetted for up to four storeys. If they put blocks of four-storey buildings on there, it seems to me it’s going to lose character,” he said.
“We don’t want you to sell all four blocks to the one developer because then we’ll end up with a real cookie-cutter approach and you’ll end up with a very bland development.
“You only have to go 200-300 metres away from Section 76 to see some examples of what, from the WCA’s point of view, is just appalling development. They’re just awful looking.”
The Watson Community Association is asking for lots of tree cover, low-density housing, and good community building infrastructure.
Minister Gentleman said the variation to section 76 of the Territory plan would see the government deliver a range of different housing options while also protecting green space in the area.
“This change to the Territory Plan will create more housing options for people wanting to live close to transport and local facilities, while also delivering a neighbourhood park and retaining many of the existing trees on the site,” Mr Gentleman said.
“In 2021, we sought public feedback on plans to vary the Territory Plan and redevelop Section 76 in Watson. We’ve taken on board that feedback and have amended the variation so there is more open space and we retain more mature trees on the eastern and southern boundaries of the site.”
Section 76 Watson is on the ACT Government’s Indicative Land Release Program (ILRP) for 2022/23. The Suburban Land Agency will prepare the market release.
Further information on Section 76 can be found on the ACT Government’s YourSay website.