It may be a little out of fashion with the ACT Greenslabor ministers, but residents like to be listened to about what happens to their home, their street and their neighbourhood.
What is being threatened to Robson Street in Garran is an example of how this government goes about causing anxiety among residents when such time-wasting exercises could be avoided easily.
The government proudly announced in 2021 that the Garran Primary School, a very popular school, is to be expanded. The consultant’s November 2022 report sets out the reasons why the site alongside the school needs to have the lease varied so that the expansion of the buildings, landscape, facilities and car parking can be undertaken.
It is a long-winded consultant planning report that dares anyone to read it and remain sane.
Most of the report findings are fine except when it comes to traffic and parking. Anyone who has experienced being around a school at drop off and pick up time knows that traffic and parking issues around schools are not managed well by planners or by any of the consultants who operate as the planning directorate’s outsourced planners.
Garran Primary needs the expansion. But what does not need to happen is for some of the traffic issues to be moved onto Robson Street – a street behind the school.
A carpark on Robson Street for the school was debated 10 years ago and the plan was dropped given the obvious issues it would have caused. Despite that bit of history, the consultant report sees no problems with 400 car movements a day being added to this narrow street.
According to the report, extensive consultations were held. As happens with these top-down consultations, most of Robson Street probably did not respond and therefore by default were taken as being supportive of the school expansion. But little did they know that they were giving the nod to a new car park having its entrance/exit onto their narrow and at times busy suburban street. Now it is apparent that almost all do not support this.
The fix is relatively easy. The section of the car park nearest Robson Street could be realigned to have the entrance/exit onto the major through street, Kitchener Street, which is now the entrance for the present carpark. That fix is being ignored by those being contacted by residents.
Robson Street is relatively narrow. If cars are parked on one side, then drivers have to give way as two cars have difficulty passing each other. Unfortunately, this street is also used by some who love to make rapid shortcuts and so travel through at dangerous speeds, despite the presence of the pre-school, the 40 mph signs and others indicating the presence of elderly residents.
Once upon a time, good planning would have avoided such anxiety. Instead it now takes hours on the phone trying to get politicians to get involved (did not happen), hours contacting residents to conduct their own surveys and then time finding out who to send submissions to and finally the writing of letters.
All this because someone did not think that pushing 400 or more car movements onto this street was silly, especially as the alternative remains obvious.
The more stupid thing was a notice last November informing a few residents if they wish to respond to these suburban changes, they needed to go online and submit something in the context of the new planning reforms.
That’s not easy for people with no planning background and probably little knowledge of any of the stuff around district strategies, a new territory plan and the other mountain of planning reform documentation.
All this is happening unnecessarily because the ACT planning directorate conducts its business with little regard for those who live in Canberra’s suburbs.
These residents, many of them retired, wish to live peaceful lives and had no desire for unnecessary disputes with their local government, their local politicians and the government’s hierarchical and inaccessible planning bureaucracy. Is there anyone sensible left in this government? If so, please sort this out.