The Environment and Planning Forum (EPF) “provides strategic comment on planning and development policy to the ACT Government and the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate” (EPSDD). The Minister for Planning attended the meeting on 28 June, 2021 and asked for questions to be provided ahead of the meeting. The GCC was encouraged to raise our concerns as detailed in the Call to Suspend Land Sales in this forum.
The questions the GCC provided, and the written responses received are included below. Please note that the GCC would not normlly raise matters specific to a district in the EPF (which is an ACT-wide forum), but was explicitly asked to do so. These questions are extracted from this attachment to the EPF meeting minutes.
The responses from the Minister feel well short of acknowledging there is any problem, or articulating any actions to address the issues.
For reference, the GCC’s position regarding DV364 based on feedback from residents is detailed in DV364 Inquiry – GCC Submission and Hearings (from the 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.
Questions Tabled in EPF
Two motions have been passed by the ACT assembly, and the ACT Assembly will receive a petition signed by over 650 residents next week, regarding the development of the Gungahlin Town Centre. This is strong evidence that the current planning processes are failing to deliver a viable town centre for Gungahlin. You have committed to respond to Suzanne Orr MLA’s motion (passed on 10 February 2021) by the last sitting day in 2021 (2 December). Andrew Braddock MLA’s motion (passed on 3 June 2021) calls for a response by October 2021.
What specific actions is the ACT government taking to inform and develop a response to the call to “support the further development of the Gungahlin region and town centre, ensuring that there are additional employment opportunities in Gungahlin” ? How will the Gungahlin community be engaged in the process of developing a response ?
- The two motions, now resolutions of the Assembly, are being considered. Responses to the Assembly resolutions will be provided by the stated timelines.
- There has been ongoing planning for Gungahlin and it continues to be updated to address changes in market, global impacts and ongoing changes in best practice and communities (including planning for the future Gungahlin community). Through various forms of consultation and engagement the Gungahlin community has and continues to provide input and feedback on planning and development in Gungahlin.
- It is not only planning that is responsible for the viability of centres – noting it is considered that the planning has provided strong foundations for a liveable and viable Gungahlin town centre. There has been considerable investment in Gungahlin as the town centre and district grows and changes.
- Draft Variation to the Territory Plan 364 (DV364) incorporates the recommendations of the Gungahlin Town Centre Planning Refresh into the Territory Plan to provide guidance on the desired built form and character of the centre as it develops. An inquiry into DV364 is being held by the Standing Committee on Planning, Transport and City Services. The Government will in due course respond to the Standing Committee inquiry.
Many of the planning (poor development), transport (traffic congestion/parking), and lack of facilities (community, sport, recreation) issues in Gungahlin are the result of disconnected incremental investments and projects without a clear and enforced overall strategy.
Will the ACT Government commit, as a matter of urgency, to establishing a cross-directorate place-based approach to completing Gungahlin with all the services residents would expect of a Canberra district? This approach would require active participation from (at least) EPSDD, TCCS, CMTEDD, CSD, SLA, and JCSD, with occasional input/involvement from Education and Health.
The Government’s approach to planning is an integrated approach which includes collaboration across Government agencies and Directorates. At both the strategic level and the statutory level there is ongoing sharing of information and input. The district planning work being undertaken is an example of how at a spatial scale, the government is taking an integrated approach to strategic planning.
What processes (policies, initiatives, incentives, metrics) does the ACT government have in place to encourage the equitable distribution of sustainable economic development, facilities and services across all of Canberra’s districts?
In terms of policies, a clear hierarchy of centres applies in Canberra and this influences the spatial structure and distribution of activity throughout the city. The centres distributed across Canberra include: the city centre, four district town centres, 19 group centres and 93 local centres. This hierarchy is recognised in the ACT Planning Strategy, the National Capital Plan and the Territory Plan. Beneath this, the Territory Plan provides a system of zoning that is implemented in all centres across all districts to provide for and support economic development, facilities and services to be located at accessible locations. While planning can facilitate and respond to change it is not solely responsible for development and activities that occur throughout the districts. Market forces and industry play a role eg, locational decisions of the private sector to take up the opportunities presented under the land use zoning for centres and in districts. Employment areas and activity areas might also occur in other areas and provide further differentiation of services and competition of economic development opportunities.
The government plans for a range of uses and facilities based on population projections, comparative analysis, engagement, monitoring of changes over time (locally and in other jurisdictions). As Canberra has grown not every centre is the same or serving the same type of population and the needs, opportunities and challenges change.
The ACT Planning Strategy outlines the Government’s clear vision of planning for a compact, efficient, diverse, resilient and accessible city and outlines a number of actions toward achieving this. Further the Strategy identifies an opportunity to undertake a district planning approach to develop a better understanding of district attributes and needs and proposed planning directions for districts (page 93) including (see action section 1.1.4, page 43): https://www.planning.act.gov.au/act-planning-strategy/strategic-directions/compact-and-efficient-city
The ACT Planning System Review and Reform project is currently investigating the opportunities for a district planning approach (https://www.planning.act.gov.au/planning-our-city/act-planning-system-review-and-reform)