16 August 2018

Variation approval entrenches high-rise development in Woden, says community council

| Ian Bushnell
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Woden Town Centre: The Government and the community council remain at odds over the future of the precinct.

The approval of Draft Variation 344 paves the way for high-rise development in the Woden Town Centre but little else, according to the Woden Valley Community Council.

The approved variation to the Territory Plan was tabled in the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday with Minister for Planning Mick Gentleman saying it gave more planning certainty to Woden.

“These planning changes for the Woden precinct and surrounds clarifies zoning and sets the rules around open space, improved pedestrian access, and building heights and setbacks appropriate for the existing Town Centre layout,” he said.

But WVCC president Fiona Carrick said the Government had ignored most of the recommendations made by the Council on building heights, solar access, public space, identifying sites for community facilities, and ensuring corridors for bicycle paths.

“The Woden Valley Community Council (WVCC) supports residential development and the associated community facilities and open spaces required to support a growing population,” Ms Carrick said.
“Unfortunately the draft variation to the Territory Plan for Woden provides for high rise buildings but does not meet the community’s needs for community facilities.”

She said the variation provided for 16 to 28 storey buildings across the Woden Town Centre, not mixed building heights or human scale around public spaces like the other town centres.

Ms Carrick said the Government’s response to the Standing Committee on Planning and Urban Renewal Report explained why sites had not been identified for community facilities such as a community/arts centre, a multi-purpose sports hall, an indoor pool and a CIT campus.

“While the government is not expecting to return profit on the many services it provides, it is expecting, and required, to provide value for the taxpayers money spent. In regards to Woden, this means that there needs to be a sustainable level of population that will utilise the services provided. The Woden Valley population has remained steady at around 35,000 people, equating to 8.7% of the ACT population. In comparison, the Belconnen and Tuggeranong districts provide for populations of almost 98,000 and 86,000 respectively, which equate to 24.3% and 21.3% of the ACT population,”

the Government response states.

But Ms Carrick contends that Woden and Weston Creek should be counted as one catchment for the provision of community facilities, in line with the National Capital Plan.

She said buildings around the town square would still be up to 28 storeys, with implications for the amount of sunshine there – a minimum of three hours’ winter solar access to the square to at least 1000 square metres or about a third of the square.

Solar access along the east-west spine had also been compromised by the approval of Geocon’s Grand Central on its northern side.

Ms Carrick said the Council had not supported Geocon’s marker building at the Tradies site or Hindmarsh’s proposed marker building between the police station and the cemetery.

Geocon’s Grand Central Towers development on Bowes Street.

The Council had argued that Arabanoo Park near the interchange be maintained as open space but that was not taken on board.

“We lost Arabanoo Park. We maintain that we have lost a lot of green spaces including the Alexander and Albemarle courtyards, the Pitch ‘n’ Putt, and Athlonn Drive will be densified. There are plenty of carparks that could be used for community facilities instead of taking our park,” Ms Carrick said.

She said only one bike path south of Hindmarsh Drive was identified. “We wanted the ones into the town centre so they wouldn’t be built out,” she said.

But Mr Gentleman said that with the variation, future redevelopment would encourage walking and active travel, and public spaces as well as thoroughfares would be more attractive, particularly with the future arrival of light rail.

“The broad scale renewal of the town centre was one of the drivers of the Woden Master Plan process from 2015. The master plan identifies many opportunities for capitalising on the Town Centre as a metropolitan hub,” he said.

“Variation 344 introduces building height controls for the town centre as well as requiring new development to provide improved pedestrian experiences along main pedestrian areas as the rejuvenation of the town centre gets under way.

“The ACT Government’s vision is to make the centre more accessible, with improvements to the street and open space networks, community facilities, as well as more housing choices to bring new people and businesses into the centre to support its role as a place to work, shop, live and play.”

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