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YWCA hisses at locals opposing development plans

The development application for units outside the YWCA’s rooms in Bill Pye Park… surely someone in this government or its bureaucracy can identify with how Ainslie residents value their cherished park. Photo: Paul Costigan

“Another of the residents’ experience has been to observe how compliant the Planning Directorate is to the wishes of YWCA Canberra as a developer chasing yields,” writes “Canberra Matters” columnist PAUL COSTIGAN.

THE ACT government’s planning system and processes are no longer fit for purpose. They have been corrupted by ad hoc, ill-informed and illogical decisions. 

Paul Costigan.

Today the Planning Directorate functions as a property development unit. 

The directorate is known for its laissez-faire approach to development. Whatever the developers put up for consideration, provided enough meaningless boxes are ticked, travels over the desks of those nominated as the planning authority for that day. Checking against the planning rules is regarded as an archaic process.

Residents have unpleasant experiences with the ACT government’s dodgy approach to development. 

The most recent being the experience of Ainslie residents dealing with Canberra’s YWCA and its applications to build units on the corner attached to Bill Pye Park. 

This is also a case of residents getting between a very generously funded corporatised organisation and a bucket of money. 

Another layer of the residents’ experience has been to observe how compliant the Planning Directorate is to the wishes of YWCA Canberra as a developer chasing yields. 

When the development application (DA) was approved, residents identified that rules were ignored. An appeal to the Appeals Tribunal was successful with a list of reasons given why the development failed. The outcome was obvious, that the chief planner, being the ACT’s planning authority, had failed to assess the development against the rules.

Then things got really dodgy! Rules were varied that suited this development. Apparently, large trees will no longer hinder solar with their shadows, even if the developer builds next to them. 

Another DA appeared in February with minor amendments. Residents saw that it still had planning issues including being poorly designed and inappropriate for this site. Why didn’t the Planning Directorate knock back this new faulty DA? 

A public campaign was launched by the YWCA against the residents along the lines that they were denying housing for disadvantaged people. 

Having heaps more housing for the disadvantaged is exactly what the locals want the government to do. However, in this case the developers and the ACT government want to remove trees and demolish the former community facilities (there go the trees again). Residents would much rather have the facilities revamped for wider community use and for them to be again integrated with Bill Pye Park.

Anyone who has sat in Bill Pye Park for an hour or two, observed children playing, parents calling by to sit with their children, and the occasional groups playing in their special spots (fairy circles) under the trees – would understand what a special place this park is to this neighbourhood. 

Instead, the YWCA’s approach has been a not-very-nice campaign of selected disinformation about the aspirations and actions of these peaceful residents.

This tension between the YWCA and residents is happening because of the government’s lack of good social policy, urban design and master plans. 

The ACT Labor/Greens government have morphed the Planning Directorate to be about development and profits and less about the people who live here. The ACT Greens’ new normal is inappropriate developments, a lack of planning, little about affordable housing, underfunded social housing programs and other rubbish practices. Most of their energy goes on misinformation and spin that fails to communicate anything genuine.

Surely someone in this government or its bureaucracy can identify with how Ainslie residents value their cherished Bill Pye Park and why they wish to restore the buildings to being available for wider community use – possibly for childcare and as general-purpose meeting rooms.

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

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13 Responses to YWCA hisses at locals opposing development plans

Hester W says: April 20, 2022 at 4:07 pm

Any parent playing with children in Bill Pye Park would, I’m sure, be happy to have older women living on a small corner of the park. Women are disadvantaged throughout their lives and do a lot of “lifting”. The broader Ainslie community very much welcomes this development and the opportunity to give back.

S. Draw, K. Cab. says: April 20, 2022 at 9:31 pm

@Hester W

“The broader Ainslie community very much welcomes this development and the opportunity to give back.”

No it doesn’t.

The broader Ainslie community very much doesn’t want this development and yet also takes all reasonable opportunities to give back whenever it is able.

Spin that.

Ian Hubbard says: April 21, 2022 at 8:49 am

As the ACAT decision outlined this development will change the nature of this area. A nine unit development is too dense on this site. It really stands out and would rob the tenants of any opportunity to quietly fit in the neighbourhood. ACAT also asked whether the YWCA really had the best interest of the future tenants at heart with such a crammed design and poor amenity.

S. Draw, K. Cab. says: April 21, 2022 at 2:20 pm

The welcome tenants receive is unrelated to the issue at hand, but good try. The resentment will be towards the poor design and outrageous density for the site, ultimately trashing what is a parkland site for the surrounding suburb.

Keep trying your straw-man arguments @Hester W and I’ll keep shooting them down!

Say hello to Foo Barr and his developer mates.

Yours in logic.

Hester W says: April 21, 2022 at 6:27 pm

Poor design? There’s a two-storey monstrosity with nil design aesthetics directly opposite! Where were the local burghers objecting when that went up? And half the housing in the Crescent is medium-density modern “cheap, pragmatic” housing, largely public, and very welcome. Bill Pye Park is large and there is ample room for kids, cricket, a micro-forest, birds, animals, more trees, and room for housing on that corner (1/6 of the area) for vulnerable Elders who need to live safely near the bus and shops. Enough with the smug Nimbyism and on with enabling the disadvantaged to live in wealthy Ainslie. I reiterate my concern that the tenants must be made welcome when they move in. Focus on the McMansions blighting the suburb and swallowing up gardens and canopy. FAR bigger issue.

S. Draw, K. Cab says: April 23, 2022 at 11:26 am

So one mistake deserves another? I might agree on your observations of surrounding residential construction, but that does not absolve this development from decent design and reasonable density. Given it’s location, I’d argue even moreso that tight controls be in place on these points.

I can’t see why you should have any concern about the welcome the residents will receive. I’m confident.most residents in Ainslie would know the future residents would have had nothing to do with the over crowding design proposed for this development. You keep raising this point. It’s irrelevant. A greater concern is your continued attempt to conflate the two arguments as though they are related. I’d therefore conclude you have some other motive.

P.S. We don’t live in Ainslie, but know it well.

R. steele says: April 21, 2022 at 3:48 pm

Please let these treasured community areas be kept as natural spaces for birds, animals, trees, children and community halls. Please don’t rezone community areas for public housing. There are plenty of other local spaces that could be used for a compound such as the one proposed by the YWCA.

Hester W says: April 21, 2022 at 6:34 pm

One R Steele posted this Re the proposal on the Planning Alerts site last year: “To be honest (and I don’t think anyone really wants say this), putting ten people/families with social problems in a tiny area is not the recipe for a happy environment. Those people will have friends with similar problems and soon you will create a small area of despair where formally [sic] there was a park.” Thank you for your honesty – quite revealing.

S. Draw, K. Cab says: April 23, 2022 at 11:16 am

Reveals what Hester W? Reveals a potential truth?

4 families, being less crammed in than 10 is surely smarter. I’d have thought x4 was a lot for that space.

R. Steele says: April 23, 2022 at 1:22 pm

Please allow this precious site, the former North Ainslie Preschool to remain a valuable part of North Ainslie’s history. North Ainslie has less heritage areas than the southern part and each space is a very valuable part of the community with its own Indigenous history. In this matter of great importance to the community I could encourage we treat each other with respect, not nitpick at spelling or badly phrased sentences or pick on (what I personally think is a really cute house) in order to score points for the real estate developers which are creating concrete nightmares where trees used to live. Let kindness prevail in these discussions, it is what really matters here.

YIMBY says: April 26, 2022 at 8:50 am

“Precious site” – it’s a suburban block of land, with an old demountable on it and some regular, everyday trees. It’s hardly the Tarkine, stop using heritage as a shield for your obvious nimbyism.

S. Draw, K. Cab. says: April 29, 2022 at 8:02 am

I agree @YIMBY, there’s nothing special there at the moment and it’s not a good reason against at the new development. But there are other good reasons and concerns against the proposed design, density and use of that space. As pointed out in the article the gov process appears to have been subverted, and if not, very deficient in it’s application

Calls of Nimbyism are really reaching for the last spanner in your tool kit. By nimbyism do you mean by anyone living in Canberra? We don’t even live near the place but I can see a valid problem for the people who live nearby, the broader community beyond the suburb and for the ongoing misuse of process and approvals.

Did you read the article?


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