What’s Going on With all the Work Being Done at The Establishment site ?
A substantial temporary road has been constructed parallel to Gundaroo Drive behind the YMCA Early Childhood Centre (to be restored and rehabilitated by August 2022), an access road into the site has been built at the roundabout at the intersection of Gundaroo Drive and Gozzard Street and there’s major excavation going on. All of this, despite there being no decision on the current Development Application (DA) for the site! It’s hard not to assume the developer, Geocon, is so confident the DA will be approved they are pushing ahead … which is not a good look for the ACT government agencies responsible for approving the DA and the other works going on.
Geocon has already chopped down a tree on the site without permission and appears to have gone beyond the limits of the TCCS issued licence for limited development of the unleased Territory Land adjacent to the child care centre. The photos provide evidence of unauthorised, substantial and irreversible development and excavation works on the building site proper.
A number of residents have contacted the GCC with similar concerns, and the GCC has also spoken with the YMCA who are struggling to manage the disruption caused by the vibration and dust created by they excavation and other work. The email response the GCC received from the Environment Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate (EPSDD) has been:
“The reconsideration of the S197 application for DA201732666 is still underway.
In regard to the works underway adjacent to Gundaroo Drive, a licence was issued by TCCS to Geocon to permit the use of this area of unleased Territory Land for a temporary road access, parking area and an outdoor play space for use by the YWCA childcare centre during the construction of the adjacent development. This licence commenced on 18 March 2021 and will expire on 1 August 2022. I understand the access road will be on the same alignment of the old Gundaroo Road, to minimise disturbance to the trees.”
The “reconsideration” mentioned above is the third attempt to get a development application approved for ths site.
The first DA was lodged by Empire Global in 2017 when the development was known as Air Towers. Despite broad community and GCC opposition this DA was approved in 2018. You can read more about the GCC’s concerns in these articles:
- Air Towers Development Application (Published 7 November 2017, Updated 26 November 2017)
- Air Towers Development Application Update (Published 5 May 2018)
The Notice of Decision for this original DA was very subjective and raised numerous further concerns about the DA approval process as detailed in this article.
The second DA for the site was lodged in May 2020 by Geocon (who had entered into an agreement with Empire Global) and sought to make a number of relatively minor amendments to the approved DA. The GCC again strongly opposed this amended DA, and in a much more rigourous assessment by the planning authority, the amended DA was rejected:
- Amended DA for Establishment High-Rise (formerly Air Towers) (Published 20 May 2020)
- GCC Representation for Amended DA
- Amended DA for The Establishment Refused (Published 18 August 2020)
The third DA attempt, was a request by Geocon in June 2020 to “reconsider” the decision to reject the amended DA, allowed under Section 197 (S197) of the Planning Act. Again, the GCC opposed this DA
noting in particular that:
“The documentation provided with the reconsideration contains numerous changes to the amended DA and/or original DA and reads as a further amendment and does not appear to challenge the validity of the Notice of Decision for the Amended DA.”
Further background on how the Gungahlin “Office Park” turned into residential towers can be found in this article:
- Getting Development Right for the Town Centre – The Gungahlin Residential Towers Story (Published 27 November 2016)
Great article about another contentious development in the now infamous ‘Gungahlin High-rise Precinct’. Unfortunately this area has a history of contentious development applications and approvals. A reasonable person might anticipate a developer to get away with what they could to maximise their profit – its their job. But, what is disappointing and concerning is the role of the ACT Government and planning (EPSDD/TCCS) bureaucrats providing what could be seen as questionable approvals slanted towards the developers interests with little or no regard for existing residents. A reasonable person might also conclude these decisions also maximise ACT Government revenue at the determent of existing residents (they already have our money).