Costigan / Bishop moves to checkmate residents

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Heaven sent… the Anglican plan for townhouses in Rosenthal Street, Campbell.

MANY development proposals challenge residents. The residents of part of Campbell are definitely dealing with something different. The developer is the Anglican Church of Canberra and Goulburn. And it looks as though the residents’ dealings with the church-as-developer are not turning out to be enjoyable experiences.

On Sunday, August 12, residents formed the Campbell Community Association (CCA). In the years before the formation of the CCA, residents had been clear that their top priority was a master plan for the whole suburb and any further changes should wait till this has been completed.

It looks as though one resident, the Anglican bishop, has not accepted this popular approach as he pushes ahead with a development in Rosenthal Street, Campbell – the Anglican bishop’s official residence. In 1973 a concessional lease was granted (being at no cost) for this site. A local priest and family now occupy the house as the bishop lives in Goulburn.

This is where it gets confusing. Locals have had to respond to a development application (DA) for a suite of supportive care townhouses to be built on this site. But the site is not zoned for this.

It seems that while attention has been on the DA, another process has been happening to have the concessional lease altered so that the church can build and sell the townhouses for the special purpose of supportive housing (the target market being aged people requiring support). Does this look like a game being played at the expense of the residents?

The Anglican Church needs cash fairly quickly as a result of the findings of the Royal Commission into Child Abuse. This proposal is that plan put into action. The trouble being that as the taxpayers have already paid for this site through the concessions, the lease may soon be converted to have profits not come back to the taxpayer, and the consequences will be changes to the amenities of this suburb that are not being agreed to by the locals. People are paying multiple times for the actions of this church.

This is yet another instance whereby a very generous concessional lease could be turned to profit for the leaseholder. There have been several of these recently. Usually it is sporting clubs. As has happened before, we are seeing a large corporation leaning on the planning minister to sign off on a generous gift. Do we expect the ACT planning minister to do the right thing by the residents or to respond to the pressure and keep the bishop happy?

Then there is a list of queries about placing the supportive housing units in this part of Campbell; definitely not in easy reach of the local shops (all uphill to return); this corner on Rosenthal Street is notoriously dangerous with drivers taking short cuts and not slowing down (aged residents will be risking everything as they exit and enter); two-storey townhouses means stairs for aged people requiring assistance (makes sense?); there is no parking on this part of the street and they plan for just two visitor parking on site. The parking arrangements are as bad as any of the townhouse DAs popping up in an ad hoc manner across Canberra.

At a time when the churches need to build trust and respect, this church does not seem to be going out of its way to work with the residents beyond the very minimal requirements to drop leaflets, run a couple of information sessions (called consultations, but we know what that means) and not much more. Maybe it is time for the bishop-as-developer to pause this questionable development and to talk not through a planning consultant, but directly with residents, his neighbours, to achieve better outcomes for all – not just for the church. And the ACT planning minister and the chief planner should get on with the long overdue master plan for Campbell.

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