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In Ainslie ACT on “PROPOSAL FOR SUPPORTIVE...” at 11 Rutherford Crescent, Ainslie, ACT:

Ann PF commented

Development Application: 202037848
Address: 11 RUTHERFORD CRESCENT
Block: 1 Section: 87

Proposal: Proposal for supportive housing and lease variation - - The construction of two new single storey buildings to provide eight studios and 2 two-bedroom dwellings, landscaping, new driveway from Rutherford Crescent, parking and associated works. Variation to the Crown lease to amend the purpose clause to add supportive housing limited to a maximum of 10 dwellings.

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN

Summary

Together with the Rutherford Crescent Residents Association (RCRA) I have profound concerns regarding, and am totally opposed to DA 202037848 (DA) using the Community Facility Zoning (CFZ) of Block: 1 Section: 87 for supportive housing and lease variation.

The proposed DA has been driven by the YWCA’s desire to redevelop the land in the most profitable way possible. It has little to do with sound planning considerations.
The lease held by the YWCA was originally concessional and proper consideration needs to be given to alternative uses for land granted under concessional terms where the original purpose is no longer considered viable by the lessee.

It was never the intention that holders of concessional leases should necessarily have the right to pay out their lease and then re-develop it for other purposes and making a profit from it. Allowing the DA to be implemented would allow unjustifiable windfall gains for the YWCA.

Alternative uses have not yet been adequately explored. The first step should be to explore possible alternative sporting uses of Block 1 and whether there is unmet demand by community organisations. The current lease should be retained until such an assessment has been undertaken.

The assessment should extend to other community and recreational purposes consistent with the community zoning. Consideration should be given to whether there are suitable organisations seeking land or premises on a concessional lease basis and whether this would be an appropriate use of Block 1.

If there are no suitable organisations interested in using the land for purposes consistent with the current zoning of the land, the Government should consider returning it to open space. However there are possible CFZ uses including childcare centre, preschool, small school, senior citizens’ day-care respite, men’s/women’s shed and other small-scale facilities. The size of the block and the buildings upon it might allow more than one use.

There are many reasons why YWCA proposal is not the suitable for Block 1 and the Committee should recommend against that option.
These reasons include:
• The location does not meet the usual criteria for medium/high density residential development zoning.
• It is inconsistent with the Canberra Spatial Plan, and with Principles in the Statement of Strategic Directions in the Territory Plan, or according to a current iteration.
• The proposal is inconsistent with overarching community plans within North Canberra.
• Confiscating community facilities sets an undesirable precedent for similar sites throughout Canberra.
• It would destroy the integrity of the gazetted Bill Pye Park.
• Confiscating community facilities conflicts directly with aims to preserve Bill Pye’s legacy because of its impact on the landscape and the way in which it would seriously detract from the Garden City character of the area.
• It would have an adverse impact on the heritage value of the North Ainslie pre-school building currently on site (and which has sorely suffered as a result of neglect by the current lessee).
• It would compromise the heritage values of the surrounding crescent-type parks.
• Over 20 mature trees would be removed; a number of these are protected in and outside the boundary and have a drip zone on public Urban Open Space.
• The proposed development will have a significant adverse impact on traffic flows and lead to congestion in nearby streets.
• There is the potential for harm caused by increased traffic and emergence of black spots exacerbated by the development.
The arguments advanced by the YWCA in support of the development do not stand up to scrutiny and there are many flaws in the reasoning behind the YWCA’s response to submissions made opposing the proposal.
In particular:
• Claims made about lack of demand for alternative uses are not substantiated by evidence and there has not been proper exploration of other possible uses.
• Ainslie is not as close to major employment, commercial centres and public transport modes as many other suburbs.
• There is already a large proportion of public housing in Ainslie. If increased housing diversity is required, the better approach would be to provide purchased studios from a commercial developer where there are many complexes being built or completed.
• The proposed development will not be particularly suitable for those seeking to age in place because it is not close to shops or other services.
• The population of the Inner North, including Ainslie, has been increasing for many years and projected growth shows further substantial increases, thereby taking away the amenity of the area.
• The proposed development is not crucial to achieving the Government’s urban intensification objectives.
• Given the Government’s urban intensification policy, it is crucial that adequate land be retained for community facilities and other recreational purposes.
• Whatever decision is taken by the Committee on the appropriate future use of Block 1, it is important that the Committee give consideration to - and recommend in favour - of preserving an Open Space corridor to allow continued free movement by walkers and wild animals and birds.

1. Introduction

It is difficult to find any sound reason why the YWCA’s development should proceed. The rationale in the current documentation is not evidence based and completely fails to stand up to scrutiny. There are, on the other hand, many strong reasons why it should be rejected. In essence, the proposal simply reflects poor planning.
The proposed DA was put forward by the YWCA and was driven by using taxpayers’ funds instead of promoting growth and jobs in the private sector. It has nothing to do with planning to meet Canberra’s future needs. The developer appears to have done little by way of independent analysis or seeking views of the residents. It is therefore not surprising that the proposed DA is deficient in so many respects.

A very important issue in this regard is that the lease held by the YWCA was concessional and that proper consideration needs to be given to alternative uses for land granted under concessional terms where the original purpose according to the YWCA is no longer considered viable; and that allowing the DA to be implemented would mean windfall gains for the YWCA.

2. The Lease Variation Issue

The lease was originally granted to YWCA consistent with the practice over many years of giving leases on concessional terms to organisations that are engaged in activities regarded as being of community benefit. The practice has been adopted to assist or encourage worthwhile activities that might not otherwise take place if a market rate were charged for the lease. It involves identification and assessment of activities that warrant this sort of assistance. Community use is one of them.

Holders of concessional leases can apply to pay out the lease. However, it was never the intention that lessees should necessarily have the right to pay out the lease and then re-develop it for other purposes and make a profit from it. This is clear from the provisions of the Planning and Development Act. Applications must be approved by the Minister and the Minister must consider whether it is in the public interest to do so. In considering an application, the Minister must, inter alia, consider:
(a) whether approving the application would cause any disadvantage to the community taking into account potential uses of the leased land that are consistent with the territory plan, whether or not those uses are authorised by the lease;

(b) whether the Territory should buy back the property, or otherwise acquire, the lease;
The YWCA has lodged an application and this application was subsequently notified by ACTPLA for public comment. Objections from Rutherford Cres residents have been lodged and recommend that the DA be refused. Residents have argued that if the application were approved that there would be significant disadvantage to the community because:
• Given the current and projected future growth of Inner North’s population, it is essential that adequate land be retained for community and other recreational facilities not only for use by the community now but also for use by future generations.

• There is no evidence that alternative community and recreational uses of the land have been adequately explored.

• If the land is not kept for community and/or recreational use other community uses, including both community facility and open space or some combination of these, there is no guaranteeing the importance of ensuring that there is enough land for future community uses generally.

Since the site was confiscated by the YWCA for high density residential development the YWCA proposal has significant and adverse impacts as well. In particular, the redevelopment would seriously detract from the garden city character of the surrounding residential area; it would seriously impair neighbouring residential amenity; it would have adverse impacts on trees and traffic flows; and it would increase the potential for adversely affecting fauna and flora.

• The Government should consider acquiring the lease/site from the YWCA and reallocating it to another user.

• The impact assessments provided by the YWCA in support of their application have many deficiencies and do not provide a justifiable case in denying the community of the current park and its environs.

• The YWCA has indicated in comments that because the lease is not publicly owned, the land in question could not really be regarded as a community asset. We strongly disagree with this view. It ignores the fact that the original concessional lease is typically granted to organisations that conduct activities or provide services that are regarded as beneficial from a general community point of view and would not otherwise be provided. The intention has never been that the land be used to generate profit for private interests. Organisations holding the concessional leases were in effect custodians of community assets.

YWCA’s defence is flawed. They argue that because they applied to pay out the concession on the lease, this allows an approval that it is in the public interest to develop the site.

Therefore the original lease and the buy out are two matters that are inextricably linked. Any proper consideration of the DA must have regard to the following: firstly, the existing use of the land and the previous zoning; and secondly, that the future zoning was one that the YWCA took advantage of. This occurred when there was an arbitrary decision that took place late in 2015 to provide an imprimatur for greedy developers to seize community zoned facilities. These are the sort of issues that the Committee must address and that the Minister must consider in refusing the application.

3. Alternative Use: Urban Open Space

If it is established that there are no suitable organisations interested in using the land for appropriate purposes consistent with the current zoning of the land, the proper course would be for the Government to consider open space and rezoning the land to open space to enable that to happen. This would preserve the purposes of the gazetted Bill Pye Park.

4. Alternative Use: Community facility

Notwithstanding, it is evident that there is considerable demand for CFZ land in the Inner North for various purposes, including retaining the appropriate use of Block 1 taking into account its location and surrounding environment. The demand for such community facilities will inevitably increase with the expected strong growth of population in the area and it is essential that this be planned for. The use of the land for residential purposes would effectively preclude this land being used for community purposes in the future and this would be highly regrettable.

Block 1 would, for example, be appropriate for a childcare centre, pre-school or small school. We note in this connection that there may be recent interest from the nearby from North Ainslie primary school to accommodate their needs following the closure of several classrooms.

Block 1 would also be suitable for a senior citizens drop in or men’s/women’s shed, a day-care respite facility, and some other small-scale community facilities.
RCRA strongly suggests that one option that could be considered is an arrangement whereby Block 1 retains its CFZ with a view to moving to re-open the pre-school in conjunction with the local primary school.

5. Alternative Use: Land exchange arrangement

Alternatively securing a ‘land exchange arrangement’ would have the great advantage of enabling more medium density residential development in a more appropriate location and at the same time promote to seek a much more appropriate alternative use of Block 1.

6. Alternative to CFZ is Appropriate Residential Development: Why RZ1 is much more appropriate than confiscating CFZ.

RCRA considers that residential development in the appropriate zoning should be the preferred option because of the importance of retaining land for community purposes for both current and future use. However, should the Committee accept the YWCA’s argument that there is a case for providing land for new dwellings that would facilitate their objective then it is RCRA’s strong view that this need would best be met by sourcing appropriate zoned land or purchasing a job lot of flats from an over-supplied developer.

There is a substantial supply of units and apartments elsewhere to meet the demand of those people who want this style of accommodation. As well, there are many more apartments are under construction or on the drawing boards for the YWCA’s to use funds to purchase dwellings.

Many people do not necessarily want to be controlled by an evangelising charity. Although their preferred choice maybe a smaller dwelling they do not want to be stigmatised or quarantined in such a tight cluster development.

The ACT has several examples of small areas that have been redeveloped very successfully to provide small cottages for older citizens but importantly they are not developed with such density and nor are they based on the developer’s spurious assertions and assumptions.

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