Just days before Christmas last year, Dickson residents noticed that a development application with significant ramifications for the Dickson precinct was available online – with a month to comment. The development application involves 91 documents with no easy access to the most relevant information.
Most residents were on holidays and many are on the authority’s email list, but those on the lists were not notified. Given the seriousness of this development for Dickson, ACTPLA saw no problem with sneaking the development application online just before Christmas.
The ACT Government says it is committed to dealing with climate change, yet this new development ignores so many climate change issues. There should be solar panels across every available roof space and integrated water saving features built into the site. Residents will rely on high-energy usage to cool and heat their units. This development does nothing to enhance the green infrastructure in the precinct and will increase the heat island effect.
Despite the glossed up image presented with the plans (see above), the proposed monster metal and glass box has no outstanding architectural features. The Dickson shopping centre presently has a very attractive ambience with effective use of open spaces and trees. The new development is set to have a negative impact on most of the local small shops.
The original policy on supermarkets was about providing alternatives to the dominance of the major supermarkets. However this new building fails to provide such choices. The ACT Chief Minister and his government have demonstrated clearly that they wish to maintain the dominance of the big supermarkets.
There are many developments being canvassed for the Dickson precinct. The list includes:
Section 72: The Dickson parklands: Given all the new residential developments across the precinct, residents have expressed passionately that they would like this site for enhanced parklands and community cultural use. Residents attending meetings found the real agenda is to allow the unions, who own the leases on the central buildings, to have their leases converted for high-rise residential developments.
The Dickson drain: There have been requests for the Dickson drain alongside the parklands and shops to be converted to a linear parkland. Much talk but no action yet.
Commercial centre: There are numerous residential developments planned for the northern and southern ends of the commercial centre.
Northbourne Avenue: This is to be developed with more residential and commercial high-rise buildings.
Residential suburbs: There is a constant flow of development applications for the surrounding suburbs with many contested because of inappropriate design and lack of attention to the ambience of the suburbs. There has been a complete lack of requirement for these development applications to address environmental and climate change issues (not just Green Wash).
The Chief Minister and his government have not responded positively to requests that development across the Dickson area should be in the context of a comprehensive Dickson precinct plan. Instead all this ad-hoc planning and development increases the lack of the confidence that residents have in ACTPLA and other development agencies.
Residents would welcome a new style of planning and development agency based on community engagement rather than one that has the perception of being the puppet of the development lobby.
This key Dickson site should contain a significant architecturally designed building, should address climate change, encourage alternative uses of energy, and should enhance the green infrastructure of the precinct. The big box monster as proposed does not deliver on these aspirations. In years to come people will wonder how the ACT Government squandered this golden urban design opportunity.
Given all the quagmire of bureaucracy surrounding such developments around Dickson, it was not feasible to have expected residents to have meaningfully contributed to this latest proposal for Dickson. There must be a better way for the ACT Government to handle planning and development. We remain optimistic!