The Suburban Land Agency’s proposed multi-purpose play space at Coombs has divided the community, with residents close to the site upset at the scale of the development and others, particularly families, glad to have some community infrastructure finally on the way.
In February, the SLA unveiled its plans for the site on Edgeworth Parade by Holdens Creek Pond in March. They included six intergenerational play spaces, basketball and multi-sport courts, a kickabout area, shaded picnic area with barbecues, toilets, car park and landscaping.
A development application was expected to follow quickly but the Government now says more community engagement is necessary.
Nearby residents aren’t opposed to a play space but feel the addition of the basketball court, toilets and parking on a site only about a hectare in size is inappropriate and too close to nearby homes, and that that sort of infrastructure should be located in a more central part of the suburb.
They are also worried that the development will destroy the peace and quiet of the Pond amenity – which is enjoyed by walkers – and drive away the diverse birdlife in the area.
Alison Hutchison said the issue went back three years when the Land Development Agency failed to site public toilets in Coombs, and the SLA was now trying to place too much infrastructure on the one site.
She said Coombs was desperate for facilities with public toilets so the community could hold gatherings and events but Holdens Creek Pond was not the right site and contravened the Government’s own design rules that required such amenities be placed in areas large enough to be supported.
“It will change the whole amenity one side of the pond,” Ms Hutchison said. “It’s about size. There is a play space near the school that is a beautiful playground and exactly what we’d like.
“They’re proposing something five times larger than that and every time you do your one-kilometre loop around the Pond you will look at the toilet block.”
Ms Hutchison said the SLA was pitting young families who wanted a designer play space against older people who want the environment, the birdlife, and sense of peace and quiet.
She said there had been inadequate consultation and the SLA had used a YourSay survey last year, which she called a wish list of facilities for Coombs in general, to justify the proposal.
“There has been no consideration of the current users of the Pond,” she said.
Ms Hutchison said the proposal also failed the Government’s own crime prevention design rules, with the basketball court, which will require excavation, to be not visible from the street.
She said it would make more sense to locate the basketball court, with toilets and parking, next to the school oval.
She also believed the siting of a full basketball court next to a play space designed for younger children was inappropriate.
A spokesperson for the Minister for Suburban Development Yvette Berry said the proposal had not yet been finalised and the timing of a development application would not be confirmed until additional engagement took place.
“While there has been some negative feedback from the community on the level of facilities planned for the area, the majority of the feedback received from the Molonglo community has been very positive. The ACT Government’s role in building healthy, active and integrated communities must consider the benefits for the whole community,” the spokesperson said.
“The design of the various play spaces within the areas takes into account the different age groups of the users and whilst they exist in close proximity they have been purposely designed to avoid conflict. Feedback from the community indicated that the car park and toilet amenities should be located within a short distance to each other.”
The spokesperson said the Transport Canberra and City Services design standards provided a general framework for playground inclusions and made allowance for additional amenities to be considered on their own merit.
A number of community consultations had been carried out since mid-2018 including engagement on the ACT Government’s YourSay site from May to July 2018, consultation with the local school community in June 2018 and again in February 2019, as well as consultation with the community at the Mingle Coombs Pop Up Cafe in February 2019.
“The ACT Government will continue to work closely with local residents and the Molonglo Valley community to make sure the best outcome is achieved,” the spokesperson said.