Dickson supermarket DA

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It will come as no surprise to anyone that knows me that I will be lodging comments on the revised Dickson Development Application: 201426717.

I do urge others to make their views known to ACTPLA directly by making their own submissions. The deadline is Friday 1st April (a good day to be taken seriously!)

It is also worrying that the only solution to offering temporary car parking during the construction years is to make an intrusion into the nearby parklands. There is a separate DA (201425744) for this work – and I would encourage responses to that as well.

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Here are my draft comments on the new DA 201426717 for the supermarket.

There is general support from local residents for an expansion of the shops in the main commercial shopping centre hub. There is also an expectation that there will be more residential units built in and around the shopping centre. These views are well known and have been stated previously on many occasions in various forums.

Having additional shops and increasing the number of residential apartments are not the issues that concern residents. The concern is the nature of what is being proposed and their relevance to the design and environmental outcomes for the future of this north Canberra group centre.

The present centre shows signs of age and, with a couple of exceptions, has very little architectural merit within it and around it. The Dickson centre presents a golden opportunity to introduce a new style of aesthetically pleasing architecture and enhanced landscape and open space designs to guide and encourage the growth and attractiveness of the centre.

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The structure for the apartments as proposed does not address the need that such a building to be a landmark building for the centre. This combined supermarket block and the attached apartment tower block as proposed is architecturally, aesthetically and environmentally not appropriate. It is mediocre at best – and that is being polite.

Based on recent research and publications, it is very obvious that Australia has a problem given the dominance of certain large corporate players in the supermarket arena. This proposal, while being a response to a very inappropriate tender, compounds the dominance of particular corporations and does nothing to encourage the growth of alternative players.

This new proposal still fails to address environmental and sustainability aspirations of the ACT Government and still does little to address climate change impacts.  The new proposal still does nothing to enhance the green infrastructure of the precinct – in fact there is a serious overall reduction of greenery.

This DA would see the removal of around sixty trees – with a very small number proposed to be introduced along two edges of the new building. When all this is considered with those listed for removal from the parklands’ site, plus the dangers to the remainder, this total reduction in greenery is far too great to proceed.

The present DA proposes a structure that will add to the heat island effects and will rely on intensive use of energies to heat and cool. A serious 21st century proposal for the apartments would include double-glazing, more opportunities for cross air ventilation, water re-use as well as extensive solar across all rooftops.

If the government were serious about enhancing the precinct, there would have been steps taken to have the Antill Street side of the building wide enough to include a linear park, with trees to shade the pedestrians as they make their way to and from the Northbourne Ave trams. Instead the proposal has sparse trees along the north and west of the building that, because of the heat island effect from the closeness to the solid building, will most likely not survive.

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The desire is that such developments on this significant area should add to the amenity, should provide design leadership for future developments, and address sustainability and environmental and climate concerns and aspirations as stated by the ACT Government. This proposal fails on all of these

There is a desire by the local residents to encourage changes to this neighbourhood. We seek actions to address the long overdue improvements required to the public realm across the Dickson precinct. Sadly this proposal will definitely not be the subject of any celebrations. It is so disappointing.

The whole process of the tender and the subsequent communications has not been a good case study of community engagement. This whole process and the design outcomes (or lack of design) points to a serious problem in the way planning and development are happening.

This proposal, being an outcome of the present development systems, points to the need for a huge cultural change within the bureaucracies that advise the government.

There are about 80 documents online relating to this DA. There are many questionable technical matters within this proposal that as residents we have to rely on the expertise of the planning bureaucracy to have them addressed. We look forward to hearing from ACTPLA on its decisions on how these matters will be addressed.

On the many grounds as outlined above – I do not support the revised Dickson Development Application: 201426717.

footnotes:

  1. The Dickson Library, and nearby childcare centre, were designed by Enrico Taglietti. Due to its high usage and now multiple uses by various groups, the library is too small for the current and future needs. The library building needs to be enlarged or possibly replaced – so why not have Enrico Taglietti design its replacement (he is still active at the youthful age of 91).
  2. There are at least two books that illustrate how the government’s actions on supermarkets are flawed. (i) Supermarket Monsters by Malcolm Knox. (ii) Empires of Food – now available online.
  3. It is unbelievable that the tender was written to demand that there was a full size supermarket – thus limiting who could apply, plus that it had to include an ALDI, plus had to contain an apartment block. This was a very restricted tender rather than being an open one that would have encouraged something different. And when only one group submitted, the government should have revisited the tender and re-advertised. Having one tender was not a good look!
  4. Supermarkets, and shopping centres, can be built to be sustainable – it is happening elsewhere in Australia: here’s an article that makes this point.

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