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Sport clubs take to the field as land developers

The housing development as illustrated in an Ainslie Football Club pamphlet.

“Taking away an open space and delivering less greenery and biodiversity should not be an option that this ACT Labor/Greens government should be condoning given its rhetoric on trees, urban forests and climate change,” writes “Canberra matters” columnist PAUL COSTIGAN.

THERE are three major development issues within Canberra’s inner north that are going to make things interesting in 2022. 

Paul Costigan.

These are not the only major ones in play, but these have something in common. They happen to be sporting clubs looking to make some desperate cash through apartment developments. 

They are the Canberra Racing Club, Yowani Golf Club and, more recently, they have been joined by the Ainslie Football Club. It is all about having land on their sites that could be rezoned and then sold for blocks of apartments. 

According to the spin, these developments will provide the inner north with more choices in housing, to provide for retirement in place, and to infill rather than grow Canberra by expanding into greenfield areas. 

The justifications and the consultation processes are based on several other successful ventures by other sporting clubs. But let’s get real – it is about clubs that can no longer afford to operate without selling off their spare hectares.

The development and planning team that assisted the Canberra District Rugby League Football’s Braddon Club’s massive development are preparing the way for the Ainslie Football Club. The Ainslie Club is ticking the prescribed boxes and making the required noises, as set out by the Planning Directorate. The usual political connections and bureaucratic networking will most likely override any serious concerns that may be raised by resident groups in 2022.

The planning and development issues are not easy to follow. It would take several pages of “CityNews” to explain clearly the history of this site, to detail the different planning zones, what is really going on behind the scenes, who is going to benefit and what hands are being shaken to get this done. Attendance at North Canberra Community Council meetings, or at least joining to get their newsletters, will assist anyone trying to get their heads around this stuff as it unfolds during 2022 and 2023.

Based on the outcomes of the Braddon Club development, the likely outcomes for the Ainslie site will be that where there is now an open space with buildings, car parking and the oval, that will become crammed to the north with apartments and the area will no longer be open to the public. 

It will be most likely, as with the Braddon Club, that the main part of the site will be surrounded by an imposing barbed-wire fence to keep the pesky public from enjoying what once they had easy access to. 

Worse still, the new clubhouse may end up looking like the massive military bunker that now dominates the eastern side of lower Torrens Street.

The first step for the Ainslie Football Club will be to get the ACT government to vary the lease for the land. At present the chunk of the site under consideration is zoned for recreation and sport facilities (a short description). Obviously, that will have to be altered by the government to be some form of compact residential zone for the club to proceed with the proposed housing developments.

Then there is the poker-machine argument. One justification is that this development will allow the club to rely on property investments rather than the income from poker machines. Of course, fewer poker machines are a good thing. However, the question already being asked, with no answer yet to materialise, is there other investment opportunities that the club could be exploring? 

Taking away an open space and delivering less greenery and biodiversity should not be an option that this ACT Labor/Greens government should be condoning given its rhetoric on trees, urban forests and climate change.

As with the Yowani Club proposals and the Racing Club site (which should be elsewhere and the site handed back for park development alongside medium-density housing), inner-north residents have a lot to consider in 2022. 

Let’s hope some of the local politicians lead an informed debate on these development issues rather than sitting on the fence yet again and letting the residents do the work and take the heat.

Paul Costigan is an independent commentator and consultant on the visual arts, photography, urban design, environmental issues and everyday matters.

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4 Responses to Sport clubs take to the field as land developers

Des says: December 8, 2021 at 10:39 am

Field access:
– who “owns” the fields?
– who maintains the fields financially?
– who manages the fields use and access?
– who can have access to fields outside of booked events/usage?
– given all of the above hows that going to change once a wall of apartments are ringing the oval?

Parking:
– what a cock-up that will be

Pokies:
– couldn’t generate a better source of income than to have your own set of retirees, right there, on site. Bingo! anyone?

Reply
heaver17 says: December 10, 2021 at 8:41 am

You could at least have run with the ‘yes there is already a fence around the site and it’s not accessible to the public and hasn’t been for many years, but the new fence will be EVEN HIGHER’.

Reply
Jim says: December 10, 2021 at 10:04 am

“Based on the outcomes of the Braddon Club development, the likely outcomes for the Ainslie site will be that where there is now an open space with buildings, car parking and the oval, that will become crammed to the north with apartments and the area will no longer be open to the public.”

So an open space with buildings on it will become an open space with other buildings on it… Que?

The main Ainslie field hasn’t been publicly accessible for a long time now anyway. And the rest is a bitumen car park for goodness sake. There is publicly open space just the other side of the main road.

The racing club development makes sense to me – although I’d like to see the entire club shifted to a greenfield site and the whole area developed – it does make sense in terms of location for a new suburb then the never ending suburban sprawl.

Yowani is just like the rest of the golf clubs – desperate to hang on because its getting harder to make a golf club stand up.

As for Ainslie – if they want to do this, part of the deal should be giving up a majority of poker machines from the site, or even all of them. As Des says, last thing we need is a bunch of retirees basically living on the club site.

I’ve seen far better, I’ve seen far worse proposals. But the Government should play hard ball, and use it as a chance to rid the community of some of the pest that is poker machines.

Reply
TracyS says: December 11, 2021 at 5:20 am

It’s not just the inner north. Federal Golf Course has been pushing to develop on green space between Garran and Hughes, and there has been a distinct lack of interest from the Labor/ Greens government about protecting public open green space. This is despite part of the area under threat being a nesting site (established trees with nesting hollows) for native birds like Gang Gangs that the Greens have been banging on about the need to protect.

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