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Development blowback: Petition bolsters push for Red Hill Master Plan

From Riot Act 1 December 2017

Pressure is mounting on the ACT’s planning authority to devise a Master Plan for the Red Hill as opposition grows to two major development proposals on its south-western side.

Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur yesterday (30 November) tabled in the Legislative Assembly a petition of more than 3,000 signatures calling for Red Hill’s natural environment and open space to be protected.

The petition comes as a coalition of groups calls for the suspension of all development activity in the Red Hill open space area until an overarching planning and management framework for the area has been prepared and implemented, as per the motion passed in the Assembly in October which called on the ACT Government to not proceed with separate Territory Plan Variations for residential development proposals on Red Hill until an integrated Plan for Red Hill has been prepared.

The petition calls for the ACT Government to:

  • Protect the iconic Red Hill natural environment;
  • Retain existing green space in Hughes, Deakin, and Garran; and
  • Ensure that the integrated plan for Red Hill, which has been called for by the Assembly, genuinely protects the Red Hill Nature Reserve and the Federal Golf Course lease area, together with the adjacent open space blocks of land and Section 66 Deakin (Kent Street).

Ms Le Couteur said the petition was the biggest so far in this term of the Assembly and reflected the depth of feeling in the community about the development proposals.

The Federal Golf Club wants to build a 125-home retirement village with a new club house, swimming pool, and gym on a part of its course, while Hindmarsh is proposing 550 units on land abutting the Red Hill Nature Reserve that is currently occupied by a Telstra facility and a former Defence block.

Ms Couteur said that both development processes were being run by the developers – not ACTPLA, Canberra’s professional planning body.

“The community is saying very clearly that these two proposals need to be treated as a whole because they’re going to affect the same area, they’re going to affect Red Hill and the Nature Reserve,” she said.

“They’re also going to affect the amenity of the area in which they live, and make a significant impact on traffic and noise. A lot of people who live there actually like being next to the Nature Reserve and they’re concerned some of the things they gain from that will just disappear.”

She said residents were not opposed to development per se but wanted a plan for the whole area rather than individual bits being ‘knocked off”.

Ms Le Couteur said the Nature Reserve contained endangered yellow box woodland and needed to be protected.

She said the ball was now in ACTPLA’s court, with a clear direction from the Assembly and a petition calling for it to carry out that direction.

“For the Federal Golf Club proposal to go ahead the Territory plan would have to be varied which will have to come before the planning committee. Both [Opposition planning spokesperson] Nicole Lawder and I are on the planning committee so it won’t just sail through. More is going to happen on this. It can’t not,” Ms Le Couteur said.

Six members of the Federal Golf Club Community Panel dissatisfied with the consultation process for the club’s proposal for a retirement village have presented their own report to the Assembly, calling on the Government to implement the Legislative Assembly motion.

The report says the proposed retirement village will add to traffic congestion in the area, affect the recreational amenity of existing residents, was on the edge of a bushfire zone and was not supported by infrastructures such as public transport, bike/walking paths, community and medical services, and shops.

“The development proposal involves the conversion of the leased golf course land worth many millions of dollars to private gain for the benefit of a few hundred golf club members,” the report says

The groups also say the Kent Street site contains critically endangered woodland, with two sides of the site abutting onto woodland in the Nature Reserve, and is also likely to be polluted by leaching and other forms of erosion from two adjacent legacy rubbish tips that contain toxic waste.

It says the development will also exacerbate traffic flow problems on the “already overcrowded and dangerous Kent Street”.

“The Red Hill area is now faced with two very large residential developments which will have a wide range of environmental and social impacts on the open space area. There is every possibility that further damaging developments and activities will be proposed in the future,” the groups say.

“If these proposals are dealt with on a case-by-case basis it will be planning by development rather than development through planning. For this situation to be avoided an overarching planning framework needs to be put in place.”

The Federal Golf Club and developer ‘Mbark’ will conduct three community drop-in sessions on 6 and 7 December at the Hughes Community Centre.