This is the question (what is going on?) residents around Braddon had hoped to be answered when they attended a developer initiated information session on Thursday evening 8th December.
This session was supposed to inform residents following the purchase of the Canberra City Bowling Club (Braddon) by the private developer. Up till this event, the only information available was sourced through statements the developer made in the press. (see the former post on this)
On the Thursday evening when people arrived they were confronted with a wall display of copies of their submissions that had been sent to the Commissioner for Fair Trading about the liquor licence application. Patrons were invited to make fun of the submissions – with pens thoughtfully provided to add comments.
People who had made the submissions were shocked that anyone would do such a thing. After all, if the bar turned out to be good for the neighbourhood, they could be its patrons. But that would seem unlikely now …
Having accepted in good faith the open invitation to attend the ‘information session’, residents quickly got a subliminal message – intended or not – that the event was partly to belittle them for making good faith submissions about the liquor licence.
So did anyone get any answers to their questions about the developer’s intentions?
One attendee said ‘the public consultation was a con’; another said ’no information was made available’; another ‘it’s a sham’. And so on…
That afternoon one resident heard the same developer was about to undertake some demolition work on an adjoining house. He approached the property, staying on public land, and started to take photographs of what was happening. He was approached by a builder who did not like photos being taken. It was an unnerving experience.
Residents are also scratching their heads about this sale of a community site. Many are convinced that the site could survived as a club site and/or could be rejuvenated as a site with a community focus.
As the population around this area is increased (intensified) due to increasing number of dual occupancies, town-houses and apartments, such sites will be even more important to the future health and well-being of the suburb. Surely there must be a planning minister or a head of a planning committee out there who would want to look into this situation of the sale of yet another suburban community lease to a private developer?
Is this the new planning and development regime that was promised to the electorate at the recent ACT Elections? Is this how residents are to be treated? Is this the future for Braddon: to be handed over piece-by-piece to developers? Residents may well be asking: “Whatever happened to the Braddon’s neighbourhood plan? Whatever happened to real consultation?”
Politicians are being approached about this and residents await their actions to back those former commitments.
Meanwhile history is repeating itself as a result of these events around this development. It was in Braddon a couple of decades ago that residents were confronted with inappropriate developments and as a result associations were formed and independent candidates stood successfully for elections.
In Dickson, as in other suburbs, when confronted with such goings-on, residents got together – as so was born the Dickson Residents Group.
In Braddon, people who once only politely nodded to each other are now talking regularly and working through collectively what they should do. Things have been stirred up! And a little shaken! That’s what happens when people feel they are being pushed around by developers!
A new year prediction: Some time next year I suspect the government will have to deal with a very well informed and connected group of residents on the issues around the bowling club as well as a host of other matters. The ACT Government will then be able to thank the developer in question for bringing people together – who were formerly not so vocal.
The ACT Government is being given opportunities to get involved early and seek easy resolutions – but to date has not done so. Instead the government agencies have allowed the planning process to be business as usual.
In the new world of planning as promised, this whole matter should be leading to the development of some great community facilities. But given how things have been handled so far and the resultant indignation being felt by residents (being polite here) – the best we could say is – best of luck with that!
Actually if asked properly, the residents have heaps of ideas as to what could happen with the site. They are up for new ideas and the challenges of working through to see the site become something that the community could continue to access and be proud of.
It does not take much intelligence to see that these residents are very switched on and not to be treated patronizingly.
So will our politicians, fresh from the recent ACT elections and having made all those wonderful promises, now quickly get involved to stop this nasty situation from getting even more horrible – and complex.
What are the chances of that?
Update 22 December: the above post was originally meant to be posted elsewhere more than a couple of weeks ago. But as that did not happen we chose to upload it here first. Meanwhile things have moved on slightly since the original drafting.
More reporting on this in 2017.
And one comment was received that was just a little abusive – off to the trash it went. We look forward to constructive debates on this.