A developer who promised to start building Gungahlin’s long-anticipated cinema in 2020 has been given a public push by the government to get on with the job.
Labor Yerrabi MLA Michael Pettersson hoped his call for the government to “urgently explore options” to facilitate the development of the cinema would cause the Krnc Group to be “shamed into action”.
“Throughout this entire wasted decade, the ACT Planning and Land Authority (APLA) has diligently tried to communicate and work positively with the developer, but they’ve been stonewalled,” he said.
“To date, there is no evidence that works have commenced. The same metal fence barricading a barren patch of dirt still sits there, empty, in the middle of the town centre.
“There appears to be no appetite for [the developer] to fulfil their obligations under the deed and development application.”
Planning approval was given to Krnc Group’s proposal for a two-storey building with ground-level commercial space, an upper-level cinema and about 117 car parking spaces in 2020.
But building works were meant to start by 8 April 2023 – extended to this date following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr Pettersson said APLA had written to Krnc Group twice since then to let them know the development application had lapsed as they did not meet this requirement.
He said to date, APLA hadn’t received a response from the developer or received evidence of commencement.
Mr Pettersson’s motion also called on the government to explore options to secure development for the site that will include cinema works as soon as possible.
“If the developer won’t respond to good faith communications from the Planning and Land Authority, perhaps they’ll be shamed into action by being publicly called out here in the [Legislative] Assembly,” he said.
“[Moving forward] may involve the developer’s continued involvement, or it may not.”
Planning Minister Mick Gentleman attempted to clarify some confusion about what has been happening on the site since 2020.
He outlined changes that had been made to the originally approved land (Block 1, Section 12, Gungahlin), subdividing it into three sections.
The Gungahlin cinema site is now proposed for block 2 of this site, with a Crown lease granted in 2022 which states it must be used for an indoor entertainment centre.
Mr Gentleman said a clause was included for the development to be completed within 24 months of the lease’s commencement.
“It is noted that an extension of time can be granted under this clause,” he said.
“The proponent is not currently in breach of the requirements of the Crown lease, but I implore them to engage positively with the [government] and community to deliver the long-awaited cinema.
“It is up to the developer to make good on their commitment.”
Greens Yerrabi MLA Andrew Braddock said while he understood things sometimes could go “frustratingly wrong”, there was more at play here.
He stated this case showed why APLA needed more power to enforce obligations under deeds and development applications.
“Is this a case of the Planning Authority lacking the capability or the will to enforce these conditions?” Mr Braddock asked.
“Is the ACT Government a toothless tiger, having great rules on the books but lacking the courage to actually enforce them?”
He was also concerned that the motion called on the government to find the best solution to get a cinema off the ground.
“What has the government been doing for the past 10 years?” Mr Braddock asked.
Mr Gentleman said given the developer wasn’t in breach of its Crown lease, there wasn’t much the government could do to move things along.
“[However] I implore the developer to fulfil its promise to the community and progress this development as soon as possible,” he said.
Liberal Yerrabi MLA Leanne Castley included an amendment to the motion, calling on the government to report back on its progress in this space by the final sitting week of 2023.
This was agreed, and Mr Pettersson’s motion as amended was passed.