Four, new two storey attached townhouses refused

The DRA welcomes a decision by Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate (EPSD)  to refuse a planned development on the corner of Lawley and Norman Streets Deakin.  The development was for an RZ1 block well into the RZ1 zone. It involved demolition of the existing dwelling, construction of four, new two storey attached townhouses with basement carparking, driveway, landscaping and associated works and a lease variation to increase the number of permitted dwellings to four.

Deakin residents, and in particular those who live in the immediate vicinity of the proposed development, expressed grave concern and anger about this proposal.

The DRA considered it is completely incompatible with the RZ1 Zone Objective and particularly Zone Objective (a) Provide for the establishment and maintenance of residential areas where the housing is low rise and predominantly single dwelling and low density in character. Among other things the plot ratio for the development would be 76.34%, only permitted in RZ4 RZ5 Zones!

The DRA submission contended that  regardless of the status of the block as ‘standard’ or ‘non standard’, the proposal failed to meet the mandatory requirements of the Multiunit Housing Development Code on a number of points, it would be inconsistent with RZ1 Suburban Zone objectives and not consistent with the Territory Plan, that the DA application was laced with gratuitous and meaningless comments and claims  that should not be taken into account and that the development should be rejected.

In its decision EPSD has noted a number of ‘key inconsistencies’ with the Multiunit Housing Development Code – building envelope encroachment, front boundary setbacks, side boundary setback, number of storeys (mandatory rule), courtyard walls and principal private open space, as well as problems under a General Code (water ways), advice from TCCS that it did not support the proposal and from the Conservator of Flora and Fauna that it did not support removal of identified regulated trees.

Most important EPSD considered that proposal could not be considered consistent with the objectives of the RZ1 zone in particular four objectives – (a), (b), (d) and (g)  – of that Code.

The EPSD Conclusion follows:

This is a terrific win for Deakin residents who informed their neighbours, helped gather vital information, made many detailed individual submissions and together with the DRA have been able to overturn a completely inappropriate development proposed for Deakin.



Dear Sir/Madam,

Block:  11     Section:  64      Suburb:  DEAKIN
Development Application Number:  202139648

Development Application Number 202139648 has been REFUSED.

As you lodged a representation in relation to this Development Application please find attached a copy of the Notice of Decision in accordance with the requirements of Section 170 of the Planning and Development Act 2007.

A copy of the application and the decision are also available for inspection on the Public Register.  The register can be inspected between 8:30am and 4:30pm weekdays at Access Canberra Customer Service Centre, 8 Darling Street, Mitchell, ACT.

If you wish to seek a review of the decision with the ACT Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal (ACAT), you must lodge an application form together with the required fee within 28 days from the date of this letter to:

ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal
Level 4, 1 Moore Street (the Health Building

An application form can be obtained from the ACAT at Level 4, 1 Moore Street, Canberra City. Alternatively you can access the form from the ACAT website under approved forms.  If you require further information about the ACAT’s requirements or the review process, their office can be contacted on (02) 6207 1740.

If you apply for a review of the decision, the Authority will at the direction of the ACAT, give written notice to the applicant, and any interested parties that:

  • You have applied to the ACAT for a review of the decision; and
  • They are entitled to apply to be made a party to the proceedings for the review.

The applicant’s name and postal address can be obtained from the Public Register.

As this application has been REFUSED, the applicant may also apply to the ACAT for a review of the decision.  If this occurs you will be advised, and have a right to the Tribunal to be made a party to the proceedings (i.e. you can apply to the Tribunal to attend the review hearings where you will have the opportunity to present your case).

For further information please contact: 6207 6383

Online Form:

Kind regards,

Ami Acharya | Customer Service Officer – DA Notification
Phone: 02 6207 1923 | Email:

Chief Minister Treasury and Economic Development Directorate | Access Canberra – Land, Planning and Building Services

8 Darling Street Mitchell ACT 2911 | GPO BOX 158 Canberra ACT 2601 |

In March 2021 DRA wrote to Shane Rattenbury MLA saying we think that the case for Light Rail Stage 2  needs to be assessed. Our position included  the belief that the business case fails to justify the expenditure of what experts are telling us is likely to be $3.8 billion. The case indicates that fares are expected to yield less than $17 million over the next 15 years. That leaves a massive burden to fall on ratepayers across Canberra, the vast majority of whom will never use Light Rail Stage 2.

Other points are in the letter from the Presidents of Deakin Residents’ Assn, Griffith Narrabundah Community Assn, and Kingston & Barton Residents Group Inc. The  ACT Greens spokesperson for Transport Jo Clay MLA responded to each point raised.

The dialogue continues.

DRA would like to draw your attention to a paper that analyses if Light Rail Stage 2 is the most effective way to achieve the ACT Planning Strategy 2018 for the integration of land use and transport to make Canberra a more livable city. The full paper is at the link.

Analysis of the costs and benefits of light rail vis-à-vis electric buses is negative.

The Productivity Commission states it “will leave it to the (Joint Standing) Committee to ponder the relative attractiveness of light rail when such projects have consistently seen major cost blow outs (see the Sydney light rail project currently underway). Government resources are limited and there are many other calls on the public purse that are likely better value than the ACT light rail project.

The ACT Auditor-General states the cost of light rail to Commonwealth Park may have been be underestimated and the project’s economic benefits overstated. He recommended that the economic analysis be reviewed and updated, including assumptions behind costs and benefits. He added that this analysis should be made publicly available.

Light Rail and/or electric buses will not greatly redduce the great dependency on cars that people have as not only do they have to travel to work but they need to drop off/pick up their children at day care centres/schools on their way to and from work.

The current COVID19 pandemic has shown that emissions from private vehicles (69%) are effectively reduced by working from home. As Professor David Hensher, Founding Director of The Transport Opinion Survey, says “Beyond the COVID-19 period, we can expect commuting activity to decline by an average of 25 to 30 percent as both employers and employees see value in a work from home plan”.

The ACT Auditor-General considers that demand for public transport may not be as great in future due to changes in the way people work, with many continuing to work remotely.

The capital cost of Brisbane Metro network is $944 million over 21-kilometres of existing busway infrastructure. In comparison, ACT Light Rail Stage Two will be 11 kilometres long (actually, 10.7 Kilometres) at an estimated cost of $1.9 billion in 2020 figures.

Brisbane Metro is expected to return $1.91 of benefits for every $1 spent. ACT Light Rail Stage 2 is expected to return $0.40 to $0.60 of benefits for every $1 spent a figure that includes very doubtful “Woden Development benefits”. The Auditor General’s report expected a return of $0.20.

The Productivity Commission stated in its submission to the (Joint Standing ) Committee that “The ACT Government’s decision to proceed with a light rail project appears to be an example of where the results of cost-benefit analysis have been ignored without a valid explanation”.

The ACT Government argues that it’s too late to change. However installation of the light rail infrastructure (wire free tracks, etc.) for Stage2A (to Commonwealth Park) is scheduled to start in 2024. The rest of Stage 2 (Commonwealth Park to Woden TC) is not programmed at all. There are still huge problems to resolve as well as a lengthy approvals process – hence the $93M design contract to AECOM. The Commonwealth Government and the Parlaiment of Australia itself has to approve passage of the line throught the Parlaimentary Zone.


A telecommunications network base station facility is proposed near the southwest corner
of Deakin Oval. The proposed facility will replace an existing light pole, with the
existing lights to be relocated onto the new monopole.  More details at

The proponents have invited comments on the proposal byFriday, 18th March 2022.
Send to

More detail in the flyer at IMG_20220310_0003

Residents are concerned about:

  1. Unacceptable appearance of the proposal

In comparison with the existing telecommunications tower in the south-east corner of the Deakin Stadium Oval, the proposed Telstra tower presents an even more intrusive and invasive visual blight as it is located right in the centre of the public park in full view of residents in an aged residential village (The Grange), public housing, townhouses, apartments and house blocks.

  1. Need for a separate tower?
    If telecommunications equipment must be located in Deakin, why not co-locate it on the existing pole to minimise the visual impact, as that unacceptable aesthetic is already in place?

Has consideration been given to locating such telecommunications equipment elsewhere in the area, for example at the top of Red Hill, where its impact is further away from residents, and the height of the tower would make it more effective?

  1. EME levels
    We note that the EME levels are calculated to increase due to the new tower by 64.5% at 100-200 metres distance from the tower, which is exactly where the children’s playground is situated. This is a concern for the health and safety of children and the community.
  2. Concern for wildlife
    On summer evenings, fruit-bats and birds flock from Commonwealth Park over Deakin, and we are concerned that the impact of a tower of the height proposed will have on these and other wildlife.
  3. Lack of consultation and disruption caused
    With regard to the existing telecommunications tower, we did not receive prior notification of that development, and we are aware that residents at The Grange, and on Newdegate St and De Chair St were similarly not consulted. Furthermore, when it was constructed, the trenching spoil was illegally dumped in the park for weeds to grow over, trenches were dug and not re-instated so that weeds grow over, bollards were removed to provide access, but not reinstalled, and lie to this day on the ground next to their original placement. Despite complaints by residents to the ACT Government, nothing was done to rectify this. We are concerned that the proposed development would result in similar levels of disruption and disregard for the condition and amenity of the park.


8 March 2022 concerns of the Deakin Residents’ Association

Report by John Bell, President, to the
Inner South Canberra Community Council

Non-Standard blocks: Currently there are two redevelopment proposals is Deakin which are of concern. One of them involves a non standard block. Essentially, a standard block is one intended for a single dwelling. Anything else is non standard. The problem is that non-standard blocks are exempt from some of the key provisions of the Multi Unit Housing Development Code.

A variation to the Territory Plan, DV350, was supposed to fix this loophole in the Territory Plan. It did not. We have discovered that there are non standard blocks in other parts of Canberra that are causing similar problems to what we are facing.

In Deakin suburb, the proposal is to cram 4 town houses on to a regular block in the middle of our RZ1 zone. The Proposal is in breach of a number of provisions of the code and overlooks the neighbours. We have lodged an objection to the development. You can read more about this on the DRA website or our Facebook page. We are also exploring possible solutions that the government could use to remove this loophole.

Raising London Circuit: Let me remind you – the proposal is to remove the current underpass and raise London circuit so as to create an intersection with Commonwealth Avenue controlled by a new set of traffic lights. It will enable Light Rail Stage 2A coming around the west side of London Circuit to get up to the level of Commonwealth Avenue. This is part of yet another attempt to get rid of the traffic cloverleafs so that the land can be leased for high rise development. This would destroy the vistas that the Griffins thought important. Can you imagine the Washington DC city administration ever allowing this to happen on the banks of the Potomac?

RLC will involve a 2-year construction period. During this time, traffic capacity on Commonwealth Avenue will be reduced by 80 per cent. There will be a major loss of parking in Civic, increased travel times and increased emissions of carbon dioxide. Some 60,000 tonnes of fill will be trucked in. To try to figure out how to manage this, the ACT Government has established the aptly named Disruption Taskforce.

You won’t want to try to find parking near the Canberra Theatre. Some traffic will be redirected via Coranderrk Street to Parkes Way. Traffic lights will be installed on Parkes Way at the large roundabout with a pond in the middle. One likely impact of all this is that Inner South residents will no longer bother to try to get to Civic to shop.

The ACT Government is currently seeking works approval for RLC from the National Capital Authority. The ISCCC has provided a submission which can be accessed on our website or, unformatted, on the NCA website. The proposal has attracted strong opposition. We shall await the outcome of the NCA’s deliberations with interest.

Of course, raising London Circuit would be completely unnecessary if the Government had decided to adopt modern electric buses instead of Light Rail. We were pleased to see the Government calling tenders for the supply of 80 electric buses and disappointed when it subsequently cancelled the tender and announced that it would buy a much smaller number of these buses. In the meantime, Brisbane and Perth are going ahead with the purchase of electric buses, having found that earlier proposals for Light Rail were not economic.


The developer proposing a four townhouse development on a 967 square metre block in Deakin is exploiting a planning loophole that the ACT Government needs to close, the local residents association says.

The proposal for the two-storey project at 27 Lawley Street (Block 11 Section 14), on the corner with Norman Street, is on what is known as a non-standard block in the RZ1 suburban zone, where housing is low rise and predominantly single dwelling and low density in character.

It is currently occupied by a single residence that will need to be demolished.

These non-standard blocks are former public housing sites where the leases allowed two dwellings and now appear to be exempt from some important provisions of the multi-unit code.


An artist’s impression of the proposed Deakin townhouses. Image: Cox Architecture.

Deakin Residents Association president John Bell said it was a situation the association thought had been put to bed with the 2019 Draft Variation 350, which is designed to protect the suburban nature of RZ1 zones being compromised by denser development.

“It was all supposed to be solved then and we weren’t supposed to have suddenly popping up people wanting to put four townhouses on a rather ordinary-looking block in the middle of an RZ1 zone,” Mr Bell said.

He said the owners of these legacy blocks were entitled to put two dwellings on them, but the Lawley Street proposal was outrageous and completely out of keeping with the garden city character of the neighbourhood.

The proponent has applied to change the lease from two to four dwellings.

The peppering of Deakin with these kinds of developments would be disastrous and destroy the planning fabric of the suburb, Mr Bell said.

“We want these non-standard blocks to be subject to the multi-unit housing code,” he said.

“There is no reason why they should be treated any differently, and given this is in RZ1, you can do two.”

He said both the Planning Minister Mick Gentleman and the Chief Planner Ben Ponton had told an Assembly committee in 2018 that DV350 would deal with inappropriate multi-use development on certain blocks in some older Canberra suburbs.

Mr Ponton had also expressed concern that proposals were being submitted that took advantage of this “loophole”.

“In terms of the amenity, as I said, RZ1 zoning is about suburban development. The government has made the decision that in those zones we want to see a particular type of development which is low-scale,” he said at the time.

The DA prepared by Purdon Planning insists that the Deakin proposal is low-scale, will deliver urban infill with “minimal adverse impacts”, and fits with the government’s infill goals.

It says the building will respect the low-scale landscape values of the suburb at less than 8.5 m high, provide 40 percent open space on-site, vegetation to the boundaries, separation from adjacent dwellings, minimal overlooking opportunities, and minimal overshadowing effects.

“This development will provide substantial residential amenity for those on-site, through large three-bedroom dwellings, with double garages for storage, multiple living areas across differing levels for relaxation, and private open spaces commensurate to the size of these dwellings,” the DA says.

But Mr. Bell said trees were often the first to go with these kinds of developments, including those affected by excavation and shadowing.

The Association’s representation to the DA says a number of trees and their root zones will be impacted.

It also raises a number of compliance issues with setbacks, building envelopes, above-ground floor heights, courtyard walls, fence heights, building facades, and insufficient space for vehicles in the basement garages.

The landscape plan shows most of the open space is paved or concreted and two of the units have plunge pools. It also shows evergreen native shade trees on the verges, shrubs, and groundcovers.

Floriade bulbs have been lifted from the Macgregor St beds. The car park and Double Shot beds have been weeded and those bulbs will come out in few weeks. All bulbs will be available to DRA members to plant on their nature strips and elsewhere in winter to supplement Floriiade in Spring 2022.

View video
The Deakin Residents Association is concerned about the growing expense and damage that will result of the construction of a Light Rail through the heart of Canberra, compared to the benefits of transport alternatives such as electric buses and improved cycleways. While the matter is a local one for the ACT, it is also a matter for the all Australians because it will disrupt heritage vistas and damage sites of national importance. The Australian Government can be stop it by refusing to let it pass through national land such as the woodland surrounding Parliament House.
Our estimate is the second Stage of light rail will cost at least $3bn or $300m a kilometre.  Land sales and redevelopment that supported light rail Stage 1 do not apply.
The heavily indebted ACT Government seems incapable of reviewing the decision made years ago to build it. So we are seeking public support for our campaign for a reassessment.
DRA believes that the new line will be too slow, – taking twice as long as existing bus services,  locks the ACT into outmoded single track technology and makes it impossible to maintain an express service from Civic to Woden such as the one that currently operates.
Light Rail construction will be severely disruptive – requiring several new bridges including one over the Lake Burley Griffin that will take years to complete. It will cause more pollution than is ever likely to be saved, and it will damage major heritage and scenic values of the Parliamentary Zone.
The first stage of light rail Gungahlin to Civic has been successfu. Our case is that the reasons for this success do not apply to Stage II. There are a few opportunities for infill and land sales to offset its costs which are very much larger.
To support our campaign for a reassessment of options to Light Rail Stage 2 we invite you to like our Facebook page, donate to our bank account BSB 633-108 Account # 145088969  or GOFUNDME.
Also on our website is a video report of a meeting in October 2021 that Deakin Residents Association organised. In it we consider in more detail the transport, economics, heritage, and environmental damage caused by the Light Rail Project.

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