If you ever need confirmation Canberrans are married to their cars, head along to a community meeting on urban infill or development.
Last night at Jamison’s Southern Cross Club, at a public meeting called by Liberal MLA Alistair Coe, a crowd of 150 or so locals discussed, at length, the current traffic and parking at the Jamison Centre and the implications of a proposed mixed residential and retail development on the site of the abandoned and derelict Jamison Inn.
Agreeing that at present parking is “inadequate”, the mob of mostly over-fifties decried the lack of disabled parking (“They clearly didn’t ask disabled people when they designed it.”) and told of personal tales of parking woe from Cook to Macquarie and Aranda.
“Everyone’s avoiding Belconnen Mall to shop here because it’s convenient,” one woman said, pointing out the new section of Westfield opened over the weekend, so perhaps relief is in sight.
An older man suggested the Park n’ Ride be open to all drivers in the area, while a younger man said the real issue was local laziness.
“I’m sure most of the people at this meeting could actually walk to the Jamison Centre from their homes, walk a little bit longer, it’s not that hard,” he said.
That man was booed at tremendous volume, as was another man who asked Coe to look into improving public transport to Jamison, clearly laying the purpose of group centres within walking distance in Canberra’s plan to rest.
Any suggestion locals should look into ways of getting to and from Jamison without their cars was met with outrage, yelling and verbal abuse.
The plan for the intersection of Redfern and Bowman Streets at the Inn was flagged as a serious safety issue, with Coe explaining the proposed “seagull intersection” to much agitation in the audience.
“It won’t make people slow down!” one woman cried out, despite having heard no evidence to support or deny her claim.
A man in the audience who identified himself as a buyer of one of the new apartments, but who earlier said to another member of the audience he was the developer, played the devil’s advocate throughout proceedings, putting forward the only position to support the development.
On more than one occasion the audience screamed at Coe to “THROW HIM OUT”.
A member of the audience took the time to ask Coe if the Liberal Party had received donations from the developer, simultaneously stating almost the entire audience opposed the development.
Coe, for his part, insisted throughout proceedings he was there to hear the people out, to get information to “lobby the Government”, how he intends to do this aside from making a statement in the Assembly is not clear.
“This infill will take away open space, green spaces that we like,” one woman said.
Coe reiterated he was unable to do anything to stop development going ahead and supported the removal of the “eyesore” that is the Jamison Inn.
“The scale is totally inappropriate for this area, it doesn’t suit this area, it belongs in a town centre,” someone in the crowd said.
The area in question, CZ2, is zoned for higher density development as part of the Jamison group centre and the Jamison Inn has been on the site for decades.
There is also a block of apartments of around five levels only a few hundred metres away on Bindubi Street.
One audience member proposed that since the owner of the Jamison Centre opposes the development, it must be really bad, “because they’d get lots of customers from it”, ignoring increased competition for shop rentals in the area with the opening of more ground floor retail space that could compromise the profit margins of a dominant landlord.
“The shops will be destroyed if the CZ2 development goes ahead!”
As Coe called for order to the meeting, the audience responded well to his plea for a moderate approach, understanding the development will go ahead, but that perhaps a few levels could be lost or entire buildings.
“He’s lived here for only 14 years, I’ve lived here for 40,” one woman said.
This was the dominant feeling in the room regarding a development the audience dubbed “Fawlty Towers“, with every person choosing to open their comment or question with, “I’ve lived in Cook since 1968, since 1970, since 1984, etc”.
There is just one week left before ACTPLA closes submissions.