More than three years ago, in November 2016, the Gungahlin Community Council (GCC) raised these concerns with the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate (EPSDD) based on strong community feedback regarding the high-rise residential developments at the Western edge of the Town Centre including Geocon’s Infinity Towers and Mezzo, Ruby, Lumi, Jade, the Establishment and others. EPSDD acknowledged that the multiple high rise developments were inconsistent with the objectives of the Gungahlin Town Centre planning rules, and initiated the Gungahlin Town Centre Planning Refresh as a response.
- The scope of the Refresh was limited to
- building height and character,
- upgrading and enhancing public spaces and
- walking, cycling and road transport.
It undertook a range of community consultation processes, including an online survey, street stalls, dropins and a facilitated workshop. The results were published online, presented at GCC meetings and the Community Engagement report and subsequent Snapshot report captured the community’s views pretty well. However, one of the key recommendations in the Snapshot seemed at odds with the community’s feedback. The Snapshot itself states that currently for the Gungahlin East precinct:
Residential development is prohibited. This provision was put in place in response to significant community desire for more employment in the town centre in 2010.
The Gungahlin community has consistently consistently supported this position – 58% of residents indicated they wanted no more residential development in the town centre in the GCC’s 2019 Community Survey. Nevertheless, the Refresh recommendations for the Gungahlin East include:
- Remove the existing Territory Plan restriction on residential uses, which will allow mixed uses.
This recommendation was included in Draft Variation 364 (DV364) to the Territory Plan released in October 2019, along with other changes of significant concern to the GCC. Although the issues of building height have been addressed, arguably after the horse has bolted for the the developments in the western precinct, DV364:
- Proposes changing all of the Eastern precinct to mixed use (ie. predominantly residential)
- Removes references to the role and importance of the town centre
- Substantially reduces the amount of land reserved for commercial (office) use
- Changes how space for community facilities will be provided
- Removes references to the overall plan for transport infrastructure including roads, walking and cycling
The changes proposed in DV364 do not have the support of the GCC as they entrench the notion of Gungahlin as a dormitory district with a small employment base and limited services as detailed below. We have raised our concerns with EPSDD, the Planning minister Mick Gentleman, numerous media outlets and with Yerrabi MLA’s seeking the support of the ACT government to explore active mechanisms to develop/attract more commercial interest in Gungahlin.