28 Mar / 2015

Gawler Crescent townhouses – update

The proposal for seven townhouse residences on the blocks at 24-26 Gawler Crescent was first put out for public comment by the ACT Planning and Land Acency (ACTPLA) in May 2014.

DRA has been actively engaged with this proposal. We do not oppose appropriate medium-density development that contributes to residential choices and balances those future developments whilst respecting the rights and interests of existing residents. Good examples of medium-density development may be found in various parts of Deakin.

The relevant Code under the Territory Plan for ACT building development is the Multi-Unit Housing Development Code (MUHDC) as it applies to the “Suburban Core Zone” (RZ2).

In Deakin, the RZ2 zone where multi-unit housing may be constructed covers the areas east and west of Hopetoun circuit bounded roughly by Fergusson Crescent, Stonehaven Crescent, Buxton Street and Macgregor Street, as well as a zone covering all residential blocks on the eastern side of Kent Street from Adelaide Avenue south to almost the end of the built-up area. You can see the exact zones here. Therefore, the way the rules are applied will affect a large number of potential future developments, and bad precedents should not be allowed.

DRA’s submission raised a number of issues regarding the scale and bulk of the proposal as it would affect the streetscape and overlooking of neighbouring single residences. In particular we pointed out that the Multi-Unit Housing Development Code applying to the RZ2 zone does not allow more than four dwellings in a single building.

In November 2014, we were notified that ACTPLA had decided to approve the application in a revised form that included a separation between two buildings each containing three dwellings on the street frontage, with the two buildings to be separated by 1.5metres.

DRA considered this 1.5metre separation to be derisory, given the two-storey height and considerable depth of the proposed buildings. We also considered it flagrantly inconsistent with repeated public promises from ACT Government that multi-unit housing buildings in RZ2 zones would be separated by “at least 4 metres”, to assist in preserving the neighbourhood character while allowing reasonable re-development.

Following lodgement of our appeal, the developers’ architects submitted revised plans showing a gap between the buildings as 2.8 metres. However, this proposed 2.8metre separation is still two stories high and according to the ACTPLA officials would not be apparent except from directly in front of the gap.

Bizzarely, both the architect and the ACTPLA representative continued to claim that there was a 6metre gap between the buildings at the upper floor, when the submitted plans clearly showed that the relevant space was enclosed by walls and roof! Some gap!

DRA considers that a 2.8metre separation does not meet the government’s announced intention that neighbourhood character would be protected by building separations of “at least 4 metres”, and that this intention should be taken into account by a decision-maker, whether ACTPLA or ACAT.

(Our appeal against this ACTPLA decision was heard in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) on 26-27 March 2015 and the ACAT decision is now published.)

Members and others are welcome to contact DRA if you would like more details on this matter.