Costigan / Beware the chaos coming to Dickson streets

“Then there is the parking. None of these major apartments blocks ever have enough parking for their residents and visitors – so guess where the overflow parking ends up,” writes PAUL COSTIGAN.

Artist’s impression of the Mulberry development.

IT would be great to announce that Canberra planning is fantastic and there will be no more articles about the spin and deception that come with planning. Not so.

Paul Costigan.

Based on the goings-on during 2018, our planning bureaucracies will continue to approve developments that do not address their own rules. Developers will likewise do what they do as they know from experience that planners allow them to do so.

The faults constantly identified with apartment developments have been deficiencies with solar access, cross ventilation, energy efficiency, the greenery, height limits, aesthetics and architecture and of course, parking and traffic.

To residents who observe these questionable actions, planners seem to be working to pressure from above to have apartment towers approved no matter what the government’s rules state.

The only option for residents who want the rules followed, according to senior planners who have advised on this, is that residents take questionable developments to the complicated processes of the ACT’s Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

While most enjoyed the Christmas, some have taken on this challenge to question the first of the SOHO developments, Mulberry, being the one approved for the southern end of the former public housing site on the Dickson side of Northbourne.

Internal issues include that while the rules state that not less than 70 per cent of the units should have a certain level of solar access, the residents have identified only 43 per cent meet this requirement. Contrary to the Greens/Labor statements on sustainable and low-energy housing, cross ventilation is absent in the majority of the apartments. This means that people will rely heavily on air-conditioning and add to energy expenses as well as increase environmental impacts.

Location of the Mulberry development.

If the planners had insisted on these rules being followed, then any architect could have addressed this through good design. Not so, apparently.

The other obvious fault is the same as has been happening for years across Canberra. It is about traffic and parking and how this impacts adjoining neighbourhoods.

Developments are assessed singularly with no links to other apartments being built in the same area, resulting in parking and traffic chaos. This mess may or may not be addressed at a later date. This is not the way that planning is supposed to happen.

This development of more than 400 apartments will probably have more than 1000 residents. Then there is the next in the queue that will possibly have another 500 apartments. Thus adding more than 2000 residents, equivalent to a small suburb, to this corner of Dickson.

But it does not stop there. There are to be many apartment towers along Northbourne (hopefully good architecture). All the traffic questions are being considered individually, as with Mulberry, with no reference of the total impact once all are occupied.

The government has approved a major fault in traffic planning. According to the approved development for Mulberry, apartment residents have no car access on to Northbourne Avenue. To exit, they must use Dooring Street, a small neighbourhood street already under pressure from traffic taking “short cuts” to avoid traffic problems (real and unreal) along Northbourne.

The exiting traffic will join others from the ever-increasing apartment blocks in this precinct – all relying on these small streets designed for suburban use not as major transport corridors.

Then there is the parking. None of these major apartments blocks ever have enough parking for their residents and visitors – so guess where the overflow parking ends up.

This lack of traffic planning is being repeated across the inner north and joins others in Woden, the infamous mess in Molonglo and how could we forget Gungahlin.

2018, like many before, was a year when the ACT Planning Minister and his directorate failed the Canberra community; 2019 looks like being more of the same.

Somewhere in this planning mess there was a role for the new City Renewal Authority to improve things. Not happening. So why do we have the City Renewal Authority?

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