Dickson Shops

Canberra Planning is so wrong!

dickson-shops3The thought of how the proposal for the new Dickson supermarket/apartment building was taken seriously by any professional in the ACT Government ‘s Planning Authority  is totally unbelievable!

A recent Canberra Times article reminded locals of just how wrong this is. The more you think about this development application, the more you are left stunned!

One resident’s well thought out response to the proposal pointed out that there are many breaches of the planning authority’s own guidelines. When you see how many things are wrong, you must ask why was it not stopped dead in its tracks when it first arrived on a planning bureaucrat’s desk. After all, the politicians always duck for cover on planning and development issues by saying they leave these matters to the professionals in the planning authority. So why aren’t they doing their job!

Why again are residents forced to spend vast amounts of time going through mountains of documents to point out how this proposal does not meet the planning authority’s own guidelines?

This thing is potentially an environmental nightmare. It should not have been allowed to have been built in the 1990s. But it is now 2015! And it will be there for decades.

Surely if the ACT Government was serious about environmental issues and about addressing climate change, there is no way a developer could submit something such as this.

Or do residents need to state the obvious. The developers know that the ACT Planning Authority has very little climate change adaptation measures built into their planning requirements, so the developers can just largely ignore climate change and major environmental issues, and propose something that will be an environmental disaster! It will satisfy the ACT government’s own almost non-existent environmental and climate change requirements for new developments.

This is a classic example of a bland-box building.  It is meant to be a major building for the gateway to the Dickson Group Centre. It has consumed all the landscape. To make matters worse, for the supermarket and other functions to operate, it will directly impinge on the surrounding public realm.

The opportunity for integrating such an important building with the surrounding shopping centre and landscapes has been lost. This building is to be plonked onto Dickson and will deliver enhanced heat island effects to the area. The massive thing will be an unfriendly and unwelcoming wall to the main streets into the Dickson Group Centre.

They have delivered an artist’s pretty picture (above) but any use of Photoshop does not disguise how this will impact on the ambiance of the centre. The Dickson precinct is due for some upgrades. Residents had largely signed off on the concepts for more apartments in the precinct and for a new style of supermarket – but not one of the usual suspects.

This proposal will not provide the desired enhancements. It will usher in another of the dreaded dominant supermarkets. It was supposed to be an alternative to the major brands. There are multiple policy failures here. Folks – we are moving in the wrong direction with proposals such as this one. It is so wrong!

Now for the reality check.  Residents have made submissions to oppose this thing. So how optimistic can we be of a fair hearing?

Residents with any experience in dealing with planning issues in Canberra, know that the deal will be well advanced with the developer. The best we can expect from these government’s processes, is some tinkering around the edges. If that.

Residents have also noted that the building as proposed is not approved but alas you can line up to buy a unit now – as the sales shop opened in December on site. There is no other way of interpreting this. This sales exercise is subtle way of telling the local residents to get out-of-the-way as we are coming your way whether you like it or not – and we are doing so with the ACT Government’s blessing!

As in the federal political arena, we have in Canberra too many local and federally elected politicians who have become very disconnected with community issues.

Who amongst us can nominate any local politician committed to community engagement on such urban environmental and development issues? I ask as I have before – which local politician has a vision for urban development and is known for their openness to debate such matters? I think I can hear that silence again.

This is so wrong. Yet it need not be so. The ACT Government politicians need to get serious about recognising the scientific facts about climate change, they need to take the time to understand that the impacts of planning and development on Canberra’s suburbs and people’s lives, and start to  engage transparently and intelligently with residents – who vote for them.

The building of sustainable settlements is not that hard. The current planning authority requires major changes to become relevant to residents and to the issues of the 21st Century and to deliver a liveable, sustainable and aesthetically welcoming urban environment for future generations.

Here’s the Canberra Times article – click here.

and there are several previous postings on this disaster of a proposal – click here.

and one final note that I will return to in a later post: If we are to take on board the predicted response from politicians that we must leave such matters to the ‘planning professionals’ in the planning authority, then how about the residents be given the opportunity every four years to vote the planning authority executives in or out of office?


Paul Costigan

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