Local shopping centres will be able to have larger supermarkets in a move designed to boost their viability and unlock development.
Minister for Planning and Land Management Mick Gentleman said the change, through a draft variation to the Territory Plan, would increase the cap on the floor area of supermarkets from 1000 square metres to 1500 square metres and make it easier for local centres to secure a supermarket as an anchor tenant.
The issue has been bubbling away for years and the developer behind the Giralang shops proposal, which has been stymied by the inability to attract a major supermarket, has called for the change, along with the Giralang Residents Action Group.
Nikias Diamond director Dimitri Nikias said in March that change was needed so the development could be competitive with the Kaleen shops, which enjoys the higher supermarket floor space.
“This would be a simple and very welcome initiative by the government to greatly improve the prospects of attracting a suitable anchor tenant,” Mr Nikias said.
The Coombs community will also welcome the change, which should increase the chances of the still empty local shops to attract a supermarket, hopefully followed by smaller traders.
Without the change, it would have been impossible for the Coombs centre to compete with the nearby Koko Molonglo development in Wright, which will boast two 1500 square metre supermarket spaces.
“Local centres such as Giralang, Coombs and McKellar have struggled, leaving shops empty and community spaces under-developed,” Mr Gentleman said.
“While we do have plenty of thriving local centres in Canberra, this change is aimed at helping suburban shops where development has stalled over difficulties attracting a supermarket tenant.
“Canberrans love their local shops. They help turn a suburb into a community and bring services and jobs into the heart of a neighbourhood, and we’ve especially seen the importance of these centres during the COVID pandemic.”
The Giralang shops saga goes back 15 years, involved legal action all the way to the High Court, and in 2018 Mr Gentleman used his call-in powers to approve Nikias Diamond’s development application.
But the construction ground to a halt last year after a national supermarket tenant could not be found, and the matter was brought before an Assembly committee this year.
In Coombs, the developer took a long time to complete the project and then failed to attract tenants, bar a small Indian grocer.
The community blamed the government for botching the planning process that allows the developer, Renato Cervo, to continue with the lease, despite presiding over an empty shopping centre and potential white elephant.
The Minister’s move will go some way to providing a resolution of the situation, but time will tell whether it is enough.
The draft variation says that in recent times, the viability and competitiveness of local centres have come into question.
“With social and consumer behaviour change, particularly evident post-COVID-19, the role of local centres in our urban fabric is changing,” it says.
DV318 will have an interim effect, meaning the new provision will apply immediately.
You can view and comment on the changes on the ACT Planning website.