A North Canberra redevelopment which has come under fire in the Federal and ACT Parliaments has been withdrawn and will be redone, it was announced yesterday.
The joint private-ACT Housing Trust redevelopment in Torrens Street, Braddon, was to have drawn Federal Building Better Cities money and be a model for inner-city redevelopment, however, it was condemned by the Canberra Conservation Council and several leading community groups for poor solar-energy use, privacy and other problems.
The Minister for Land, Environment and Planning, Bill Wood, told the Assembly that the developer had advised the ACT Planning Authority that a revised proposal was being investigated “”which will seek to achieve better solar orientation and streetscape”.
It is understood that the developer has bought two adjacent single-residence sites which will enable this to be done. That will make the development total six blocks.
Independent MLA Michael Moore sought an inquiry into the site. Federal Independent Ted Mack put a series of questions on notice last week asking whether the chairman of the ACT Electricity and Water, Peter Phillips, was one of the principals.
Mr Wood said an inquiry was not ruled out, but he thought the revised proposal “”will substantially address design and siting issues.”
Under the new Territory Plan a different model would apply whereby both lease variation and design-and-siting applications would be subject to public notification and third-party appeals. Details had yet to be sorted out.
The president of the conservation council, Jacqueline Rees, said, “”Mr Wood has been facing a growing crisis of confidence from the community and his attitude over this issue warrants condemnation. He has failed to explain why he has consistently denied that the project did not meet Better-Cities standards. He has failed to address the issues raised by Ted Mack. He has shown no concern for residents, some of whom have been hounded into selling their homes. Instead he has chosen to run to the apron skirts of the bureaucrats and poke out his tongue at the community. An inquiry is essential.”
The council was glad to see Mr Wood take up the council’s call for non-judicial third-party appeal rights.
The Royal Institute of Architects and the National Trust have also condemned the project.
On Tuesday, Mr Wood had to clarify an answer he gave in Assembly. He was asked by Liberal MLA Greg Cornwell, “”Is Commonwealth funding through the Better Cities program being used for this joint development?”
Mr Wood answered “”No, there is no Commonwealth money going into there. That is the simple answer. There is sometimes a claim that because there is augmentation going on to the North Canberra sewerage main that somehow there is a benefit, but there is no direct link in any sewerage work from that into anything that the Commonwealth Government will put money into.”
Later in Question Time, Mr Wood sought leave to “”expand” on his answer. He said, “”I had indicated to Mr Cornwell that no Building Better Cities funding was to be spent on the project. I was of course focusing on the private development component of the proposal and about which so much fuss has been made and has taken so much of my attention. No funds have yet been expended certainly, but there is some BBC money for the Housing Trust component of the project, activity under the control of my colleague Mr Connolly.”
In fact, the project is specifically mentioned in a schedule to the ACT-Commonwealth agreement on Better Cities signed by the Chief Minister, Rosemary Follett, on December 22, 1992, and says Better Cities money will be used for it.
Ms Rees said Mr Wood’s answer to Mr Cornwell showed his lack of knowledge and was outrageous.