The release of a tender for a $616,000 temporary car park opposite Cooleman Court in Weston before the development application has been approved has local community members opposed to the project hopping mad.
But the government says it just good planning ahead of the DA being assessed.
Plans for what many say is an unnecessary car park on Parkinson Street sparked a Legislative Assembly petition that drew more than 1000 supporters and an ongoing campaign to save the open space dubbed Coolo Park. The block is zoned for community facilities and when the car park is no longer needed will likely be released for that use, in line with the Weston Group Centre Master Plan.
But the patch of green and its trees have become a symbol of what the Save Coolo Park group sees as the ACT Government’s development creep and associated loss of green space.
Watling Place resident John Davies said the tender issue was confusing and distressing to those who objected strongly to the development.
”We’ve heard nothing about the response to the Development Application or about arrangements for our petition to be considered by an Assembly Committee, which should, we believe, happen by default because we collected more than 500 signatures,” he said.
The ACT Greens have seized on the issue in the lead-up to the October election, with its outgoing planning spokesperson Caroline Le Couteur and Murrumbidgee candidate Emma Davidson calling on the government to be more transparent, and pointing to the lack of shops and services in Molonglo which is putting pressure on Cooleman Court.
“The proposal is described as a ‘temporary car park’ but once the trees are gone, they are gone. It is outrageous that the Government is asking for tenders to build this car park before the planning process is even complete. This shows the Government’s contempt for the community’s views in relation to this issue,” Ms Le Couteur said.
“Cooleman Court is busy because the people of Coombs and Wright have no shops close to home. The solution is urgent action on shops in Molonglo, not cutting down trees at Cooleman Court.”
Ms Davidson said she was particularly concerned that people had put in submissions and want to have their views heard.
”It feels like this is preempting that. It’s not a good message to send to the community when you’re trying to work with them, and doesn’t give us faith that those trees are going to be protected, and that green open space is going to be valued and taken care off.”
But City Services Minister Chris Steel says the tender was released to ensure there were no delays if the project got the go ahead.
He said the tender clearly stated that no contract will be awarded if the DA is rejected.
”The construction tender has been released ahead of DA approval to expedite the need for additional parking at the Cooleman Court,” he said.
”Should the DA be approved, this project will be shovel ready. Ensuring this project is ready to go immediately if approval is given means we can keep more Canberrans in jobs, and projects can begin and be completed sooner.”
He said all but one of the 18 trees on the site will be retained and 11 will be planted as an offset for the one lost, as well as 125 shrubs to be also planted.
”The 11 new trees have been positioned in such a manner that it is unlikely that during any further development of the site for community use that they would need to be removed,” Mr Steel said.
Under the revised design, the car park will provide 63 spaces. The DA outcome is expected in October.
The government had originally envisaged a much bigger car park to provide temporary relief for Cooleman Court shoppers but revised the design in light of local concerns about traffic management and the loss of trees.
Those concerns remain, particularly related to the Brierly Street roundabout entrance, and the Weston Creek Community Council believes the fewer parking spaces mean the project is not worth the expense, saying the 63 extra spaces could be found around the centre.