THERE have been warning shots fired across the suburb of Downer this week via two carefully scripted articles in “The Canberra Times”.
There is no doubt that this is a response to the successes the pesky residents of Downer have had in getting attention through their brilliant “Don’t Dump on Downer” grassroots campaign.
This campaign leapt into action when the Downer Community Association called a meeting at short notice to make sure residents knew what the government’s various new gobbledygook strategies would mean to their cherished suburb. People were definitely interested and filled the Downer meeting room to overflow.
There’s more online about the government’s Downer urban intensification – click here.
That was a month or more ago. And now we have these “Canberra Times” pieces where a journalist has been fed the well-prepared lines by a curious new alliance of property and architectural groups. These groups are not happy. What a shame!
According to the articles, the government has been too soft and has reduced some of the heights it was proposing for the many apartments towers that are to be built along the Northbourne Avenue corridor alongside Downer.
This call by the friends of the developer alliance has everything to do with the sale price the government wants to put on this land (larger height limits – larger sale price) and everything to do with the developers wanting to maximise the number of flats they can squeeze into these new, bland, box towers!
The curious thing is that the architecture and planning associations have fallen into line and are willingly joining the push to have the government “Dump on Downer”. They want the government to ignore the Downer residents – who happen to be looking for developments to be based on comprehensive planning, be well designed, to be people friendly and human scale with loads of greenery and amenities. Too much to ask?
The most worrying statement reported was that the property groups want to convince the Downer residents that their suburb would be much better if the developers could redevelop it just as they have been doing in Braddon. Now what could be wrong with that?
One could only imagine the industry, planning and architectural groups meeting with the City Renewal Authority over some late-afternoon cocktails and bleating about the lost opportunities for them to reap the maximum profits by doing over Downer.
One could also imagine that the City Renewal Authority responding that the authority had done its best to deal with these annoying residents who still want to have habitable suburbs for their families, and that it was time that these industry and architectural associations campaigned to “Dump on Downer”. And so we have these articles appearing.
As for the Downer residents, they are ahead of the game and have already called meetings to put together their own master plan for the suburb. On this they have taken the lead from their friends in Watson who have already published their own plan.
The first meeting, Downer by Design, has been called for next Monday, April 1, at the Downer community centre at 7pm.
The workshop will not have all the answers by the end of the night, but it will be the start of a process to develop a more cohesive plan for Downer. They need you, your ideas and your input! Please show up and join the planning workshops if you can.
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Ian Meikle, editor