The next public meeting of the Gungahlin Community Council (GCC) will be held on Wednesday 11 August 2021 starting at 6:30pm. We will be running both a face to face meeting at the Gungahlin Club 51 Hinder St, Gungahlin and a Zoom session. As usual the meeting will be live streamed on Facebook via the GCC Facebook page.
If you wish to attend using Zoom please REGISTER HERE and you will be emailed the link needed to join the Zoom meeting.
CORE development recently acquired two blocks on the eastern side of the Gungahlin Town Centre at the corner of Camilleri Way and Manning Clark Crescent. This site is zoned for mixed-use (CZ5) and the conditions of sale requires 331 dwellings to be constructed, of which 57 must be affordable and 8 are allocated to public housing.
Sites sold recently in East Gungahlin – two sites purchased by CORE Developments highlighted in green (two sites purchased by the Canberra Business and Technology College highlighted in blue)
Below you will find the Executive Summary of the GCC Submission, links to the videos of the Public Hearings conducted on 29 July 2021, and the complete GCC submission.
After the hearings, the GCC provided some additional comments in writing to the Committee – this is also included below.
GCC Submission Executive Summary
The Gungahlin Community Council (GCC) believes that Draft Variation 364 (DV364) should be abandoned. It includes changes to the Gungahlin town centre precinct code that are strongly opposed by most Gungahlin residents that will adversely impact the viability of the town centre and the Gungahlin district. The changes to building height, although welcomed, are mute as most blocks of concern to the community already have developments approved that exceed the proposed height limits.
The Refresh experience further undermined the already low level of trust that Gungahlin residents have with the planning system and processes. The Refresh took too long, the feedback from the community was selectively picked at, feedback was ignored, and the final conclusions and proposed actions were at odds with what the community had expressed. Moreover, the late introduction of new proposals (reducing the amount of commercial space, more mixed-use, new mechanisms for handling community space, etc.) which were not exposed to the community for discussion, came as a complete shock and appear not to be evidence based.
The GCC further recommends:
The existing reservation of 100,000m2 for commercial space be retained.
Further residential (mixed-use) development be minimised (not maximised).
By itself, DV364 does not address the challenge of developing the Gungahlin town centre as a district hub for employment, which in turn underpins a viable town centre. Consequently, the GCC continues to oppose any further sales of land in the Gungahlin Town Centre until:
Alternative or additional interim mechanisms (pending the implementation of the ACT Planning Systems Reform Project) be put in place to ensure the development of the remaining sites in the Gungahlin Town Centre contribute substantially to the viability of the town centre through an increase in employment, retail, entertainment, and community services, and
Incentives, investments or other mechanisms are put in place to attract employment (or employment alternatives) to the Gungahlin Town Centre.
The committee held public hearings on 29 July. There were 3 parts to the hearings – industry, GCC and other residents, and minister/Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate (EPSDD). The committee and other MLAs asked questions of each group – these are listed in the following table extracted from the Assembly on Demand website (Click on Link to watch the video or Download to download a copy of the video to watch the Q&A for each question).
Committee Hearing : Thursday 29th July 2021 9:30 am
Standing Committee on Planning, Transport and City Services – Inquiry into DV 364: Gungahlin Town Centre
The Development Application (DA) for a “mixed use” development of 152 units adjacent to the Gungahlin Club (Blocks 2&3 Section 227) has been partially approved (see below). This development is being marketed and sold as Sierra Gungahlin.
the development is described as a mixed-use, but the quantity and size of non-residential spaces is extremely small, ie. it’s not very mixed
The “lifestyle podium” is only likely to be activated and be a net contribution to the vibrancy of the town centre if there are sufficient commercial/retail tenancies (cafes, restaurants, etc.) to attract residents up onto the podium
varying the lease to allow mixed-use seems unnecessary given how many other sites with the town centre are (or will be as a result of DV364) zoned CZ5 (mixed-use)
the proposed lease variation removes the obligation for a portion of car spaces on the site to be made public, reducing the overall pool of public car spaces in the town centre
many of the recommendations of the Design Review Panel were not actioned
The Notice of Decision indicates the DA is partially approved, because the application to remove the public car parking provisions in the lease was refused. Additional comments included the following:
The key issues with the proposal identified during the assessment included concerns that the development did not provide sufficient active frontage to Efkarpidis and Kate Crace Streets, that the development lacked a suitable address to The Valley Avenue and concerns with the extent of off-form concrete. It is noted that the lessee had previously tried to secure a tenant for a commercial office development on this site but was not successful.
Following a further information request, the applicant lodged an amendment application (S144C and S144E) which reduced the extent of off-form concrete, increased the commercial tenancies fronting onto Efkarpidis Street and improved the presentation to The Valley Avenue. These changes were considered acceptable.
The site constraints, including the level variation, the viability of commercial space at this location and Territory Plan requirements influenced the design outcome, including live/work units opening off public courtyard spaces at the first-floor level. This form of commercial space is not widely offered in the Gungahlin Town Centre and will add to the diversity of commercial space in the area, while providing flexibility of use and satisfying Territory Plan requirements.
The reference to S144C and S144E above is important, as these sections of the Planning Act allow changes to be made by the proponent to the DA as part of the DA’s evaluation which are not publicly notified. The original DA only included two (2) commercial tenancies by the DA as approved now includes six (6) small tenancies (one of 150m2, the rest less then 100m2, ) as indicated in the plans below. Light Blue indicates a commercial tenancy, and the red markings indicate the amendments – click on the images to get a higher resolution PDF.
The ACT Government undertakes a public consultation as part of preparing each ACT budget. The budget for FY21-22 will be announced on 31 August 2021 and the FY21-22 consultation has recently closed. The GCC’s submission reflects the issues we highlighted leading into the 2020 ACT Election, and have been advocating for during 2021 (mostly focussed on the town centre). The GCC also participated in a joint submission regarding community services in Gungahlin with Northside Community Service, Barnardos Australia and Canberra Police Community Youth Club (PCYC).
The reconsidered Development Application (DA) for the high-rise residential project known as The Establishment (formerly Air Towers) has been approved (with a long list of conditions). The GCC does not support this development and is very disappointed with this outcome.
The original decision is amended as above because the revised proposal as provided by the applicant for reconsideration demonstrated that subject to the conditions of approval imposed in Attachment A, the proposal is not inconsistent with the Territory Plan. The decision has been revised as a result of an application for reconsideration in accordance with Section 191 of the Planning and Development Act 2007 (Act).
Key issues identified in the assessment of the Reconsideration proposal are whether the proposed amendments results in a development that is substantially the same as the approved development as required by S198(6) of the Act, building appearance, amenity of future residents with increased yield, interface with adjoining childcare centre, ease of conversion of adaptable units, landscaping, resident access to on-site communal spaces, bicycle parking, noise mitigation measures, leasing and compliance with relevant entity requirements. The planning and land authority sought further information from the applicant to address these issues.
Consequently, the applicant submitted further information to address the above issues which revised the proposal generally as per the approved development. It is considered that after the amendment, the development approved will be substantially the same as the development for which approval was originally given.
For each theme there are a series of questions of questions to guide your response, and a map to indicate where your comments apply.
You should also review the Gungahlin District Information and the Gungahlin District Maps as they contain some crucial details about current planning policy, including (for example) where increased residential development is targeted (see the consolidated policy map).
The current system does not adequately accommodate consideration of design quality or development appropriateness, putting at risk the valued character of Canberra and its suburbs.
The disconnect between strategic and statutory planning means the system is not well placed to address future planning challenges and aspirations of the long-term Planning Strategy.
These issues, along with the general complexity of the system, is compromising the community’s confidence in the system and their ability to fully participate in planning and development.
One of the proposed elements of the new planning system is the concept of district planning and district plans. The purpose of district plans, as described by EPSDD, is to “fill a gap in the current planning system” that presently exists between city-scale strategic documents (e.g. the ACT Planning Strategy 2018) and suburb-level planning (e.g. precinct codes in the Territory Plan).
The stated benefits of district plans are as follows:
Improves line-of-sight from Planning Strategy through to the Territory Plan.
Fills gaps between higher-level strategies, and their implementation through the statutory controls of the Territory Plan.
Includes current information about districts, including what is proposed in endorsed policy and strategy.
Sets future direction for districts around planning elements in consideration of how change might happen to accommodate the growth of Canberra.
Planning that suits the needs of each district:
growth and change in each district might be different
The Environment Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate (EPSDD) of the ACT Government are undertaking an asessement of Community and Recreation Facilities in Gungahlin through an online consultation.
If you represent or are involved with a community or sporting group please let the GCC know and let us know if the Have Your Say Survey enabled you to communicate your needs effectively.
The assessment is focussed on:
developing a community centre for the Gungahlin Town Centre, and
the sale of two sites in the Casey Group Centre which are being released for community, residential and commercial uses.
The GCC is particularly concerned about the plans for the two sites in Casey, and the narrowness and quality of the assessment.
Casey Land Release
The two sites in Casey are large blocks along Kingsland Parade – blocks 12, 13 of section 132 Casey.
Casey Community Sites (Blocks 2 & 3 Section 132) indicated by pink outline
Although zoned as commercial, they are part of an arrangement associated with the development of the Casey group centre, outlined in a MyGungahlin article in 2018. Essentially these two blocks will be serviced by the developer of the Casey group centre and then handed back to the ACT government for community use. EPSDD have indicate that:
The sites have a target of 100 dwellings and a commercial area of 24,000m2 across the two blocks. The sites are zoned as Commercial Zone 1: Core Zone which allows for a mix of community, residential and commercial uses.
100 Dwellings and 24,000 sq metres of commercial hardly seems appropriate for community use. The original Casey Concept Plan makes the intent of the casey group centre and surrounding community-use areas very clear:
Two early consultancies were presented at the GCC February 2020 meeting. Much of the rationale for the conclusions and findings in these consultancies were inconsistent with feedback from the community as reflected in the GCC 2019 survey.
Top 3 additional recreation facilities (2019 GCC survey)
The assessment process is focussed on the town centre and casey sites and what might be appropriate for them. The GCC believes a complete assessment of the DEMAND for community, recreation and sporting facilities and services in Gungahlin needs to be undertaken, then working out how these can be fitted into the remaining footprint of Gungahlin. A focus on the SUPPLY of individual blocks will not ensure that Gungahlin is completed with all the services expected by residents.
If you represent or are involved with a community or sporting group please let the GCC know so that we can build a demand-based approach. We would also be interested to know if the Have Your Say survey enables you to communicate your needs effectively.
The ACT Assembly is conducting an inquiry into proposed changes to the Gungahin Town Centre – you can make a submission yourself as detailed here. You may find this resident’s submission interesting inspiration!
Major Changes Proposed in DV364
I do not support DV364 I do not believe the removal of the current prohibition on residential apartments is justified. I do not believe that the Gungahlin planning refresh snapshot demonstrates that the community have ever been specifically consulted about the proposed change from 100,000smtrs in the Office Core to a mixed use model that changes this area from the Office core to “Mixed use East” Based on what I believe is a deliberate attempt to avoid asking the public whether they would be in favor of more residential apartments in the remaining vacant CBD land. The Gungahlin Community Council decided to survey the Gungahlin community and ask this specific question. The results were overwhelming against any further residential apartments being constructed. This evidence has been presented to Ben Ponton the Director General of EPSDD and Lesley Cameron from Planning and Urban planning. This information provided appears to have been completely disregarded. I have consistently noted on every new announcement of new apartment complexes being build in Gungahlin a very high level of concern amongst the population of Gungahlin against these proposals. I do not believe that many of these residents are aware of, or would be in favor of, the mixed use changes that are proposed in DV364. I believe local MLA’s in consultations with the community are also acutely aware of the public’s hostility towards more mixed use development in the remaining CBD vacant land. I have also expressed my concern to the SLA in a private meeting and to Minister Berry directly via video conference. I do not subscribe to the current reasoning that the need for more housing excuses actions that ignore the opinions and future needs of Gungahlin residents. In fact what is never acknowledged is the considerable contribution already made by Gungahlin residents. With the removal of 100,000smtrs of office space from the Business Park Mixed use north precinct. The reasoning given at the time was that there was no interest by business and the only alternative was to use the merit track to change the zoning rules to build high density residential. No evidence of what advertisement has been enacted by the ACT Government or the developer to foster that interest has ever been presented. I brought this point up during the DA presentations made by Geocon executives. The new Bunnings retail precinct located a short distance away clearly demonstrates that there is a demand for more retail outlets. The zoning change to retail I believe would have been a better alternative to the high density housing complexes that currently exist. The concept floated included a vibrant mixed use retail component in this precinct. This has never materialised with many empty retail stores that have never realised the advertised planning benefits of mixed use developments. What Gungahlin needs for the future is the preservation of the prohibition on residential apartments in the office core. The primary purpose of all buildings needs to be to provide employment to help alleviate the mass exit of residents to other town centres which have been planned with employment options as a central planning outcome to keep their town centres vibrant. Developers like to trumpet that this remaining area is close to light rail. But they do not address the empty trains that travel back into Gungahlin during the day. The reality is that without a dedicated Office precinct “no activation” will be injected into the Gungahlin CBD during the day. We know this is important as the concerns expressed about the economic decline on existing ACT precincts when office workers started working from home. We have a similar concern that we do not have what has been afforded to other ACT districts. Without the preservation of the remaining 100,000smtrs in the office core Gungahlin will be relegated to a dormitory suburb. What we have acknowledged and understand is there isn’t currently enough interest by Federal departments or Business to take up this land. But I would challenge the Planning Directorate and ACT Government – what has been done in response to the removal of our Business Park to encourage that investment ? It is in my opinion a red herring to suggest that residential mixed use is the only alternative. Given the public consultation I do not believe has ever specifically addressed mixed use residential introduction. Returning to public consultations on this specific topic is in order. We are encouraged by a renewed push to ask the Federal Government for more interest in moving more Federal departments to Gungahlin and that the ACT Government is now considering moving further employment assets to Gungahlin. But more needs to be demonstrated to encourage the widest variety of business or retail development. The recent purchase of CBD vacant land by an education provider is a good example of this sort of out of the box thinking that is required. The remaining CBD vacant land needs to be protected until we have comprehensive public consultations. And address the Government’s total abandonment of the planning principles first set out for the original need to create these Office Core and Business Park precincts in the 2008 planning documents that DV364 seeks to overturn.