What’s woken Andrew Barr from his slumber?

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THE Chief Minister says that Geocon’s Kingston plan does not fit with the inner-south suburb’s character (“Barr bags out Geocon’s Kingston tower”, citynews.com.au, July 13). 

What has woken Andrew Barr from his long slumber and made him aware of what the developers are trying to get away with in Canberra? Could it be that he read the excellent article by Paul Costigan (“Opposition to eight-storeys in Kingston”, CN, July 9), or is it because there is an election looming? 

It’s a pity Andrew Barr did not voice his disapproval at many other ugly multi-storey buildings that have gone up around Canberra and deface our beautiful bush capital.

Ann Cooper, Wanniassa

Planning system is ‘badly broken’ 

THE Chief Minister’s welcome epiphany about the plans for a large, inappropriate building on yet another tight suburban site (“Barr bags out Geocon’s Kingston tower”, citynews.com.au, July 13) illustrates well what weary residents’ groups across Canberra have known for a long time – that the current planning system for urban renewal remains badly broken. 

Foisting such a proposal into the public arena for multi-layered “community consultation” is a damning indictment not only of a developer’s rapaciousness but also of planning structures that should be ensuring high-quality design and planning for all Canberra suburbs. 

Hopefully, Mr Barr and the NCA can arrange an independent and expert review of their lofty-sounding yet inadequate National Capital Design Review Panel, which has considered the Kingston block plans not once but twice. 

The resulting proposal does not engender confidence in the panel’s role of providing design advice or as a public-interest gatekeeper. 

The Kingston complex also reinforces the widespread perception that the ACT planning processes still aid and abet developers’ “plan-and-run” approaches to urban renewal. The planning minister, chief planner and his directorate also fail as gatekeepers when any building complex is clearly not part of a far more holistic, balanced and sympathetic approach to local renewal and the simultaneous provision of improved and welcoming public spaces. 

Developers are left to smother us in spin. Individuals and community groups should not have to volunteer so much time and energy on documenting worrying planning deficiencies and impacts that promise to blight the liveability and appearance of our suburban environments for decades to come. 

Major multi-agency reform, underpinned by strong political will and oversight, is desperately needed to influence and deliver much improved national capital design and planning. Canberra deserves nothing less.

Sue Dyer, Downer

Toilets, what toilets?

CEDRIC Bryant has every right to be grumpy about the state of public toilets in Canberra’s suburbs (“The public disgrace of public toilets”, CN, July 9). 

I remember being outside the Chapman Shopping Centre on one occasion when a man approached me and, with a sense of urgency, asked: “Where are the public toilets?”

I said, “There are none”. And then told him his best bet would be to use one inside the doctor’s surgery, which he did.

John Milne, Chapman 

Future of high-rise slums

OVER the last 10 years, city planning in the ACT has been abysmal. It is time for a complete change of policy. I would make the following recommendations for after the October election:

Infill in Canberra is highly desired because of consolidation of transport infrastructure and generally to accommodate the growing population. The solution the present government has chosen is high-rise future slums. The alternative is to do what the government did when it divided large blocks that were bought during the asbestos crisis.

The removal of the ban that only blocks within a certain distance of the shops can be subdivided is ridiculous. Any block that is over 850sqm should be allowed to be redeveloped into a twin dwelling with separate titles.

  1. After a plan is approved, and the betterment tax is calculated, the agreed sum would be paid at the sale of the completed building. Should the time exceed 12 months, interest would accrue. After 30 months, the sum would be liable to be paid.
  2. Since a lot of the construction would be double storey, and preference would be to keep people in their own accommodation with home help rather than shift them into retirement units, a 15 per cent rebate on the betterment tax would apply if an elevator is installed on final inspection. 
  3. Should the original owner occupy one of the cottages, the amount of back betterment tax would be reduced by 50 per cent to be paid within a month after occupancy certificate is issued

Ben Girshon, Curtin 

So hard on residents

WHAT the response from Stephen Bartos (CN, letters, July 16), representing Common Ground, demonstrates is how hard it has been for residents to deal with the consistent and annoying alternate facts and misinformation about what the government and others are planning for Section 72 Dickson.

The political processes of plonking Common Ground on to this community site continues the unfortunate attitude by those involved towards the aspirations of inner-north residents for community and cultural amenities to be available to the nearby suburbs.

As for the comments by Stephen Bartos that: “There is no Common Ground management” – if true, one wonders about the organisation’s governance and how they handle government funding.

Paul Costigan, “CityNews” columnist, Dickson


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  1. I just wondered what planet Andrew Barr is from I see now the Labor Club have now decided to close all of their venues again and ask myself why are clubs in NSW open and people can play poker machines yet we can’t do this in the ACT is there something special about the ACT which only affects poker machines here and not NSW SA WA etc seems that the poker machines here you can catch something from them maybe Andrew Barr knows something no one else knows oh well watch all the small clubs go to the wall

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