Moves by the ACT Government to bypass the planning process and push through lease changes necessary for a controversial 150-unit development at Griffith have been labelled underhanded.
Acting planning minister Andrew Barr was reviewing the lease conditions at the ACT Brumbies rugby club in ''the public interest'', his spokesman said last night. If Mr Barr decides to allow the changes it would be his second use of controversial call-in powers in two months. The Brumbies club is seeking to rezone the site of its Griffith headquarters from a commercial CZ6 leisure and accommodation zone to a RZ4 medium density residential zone and remove a concessional lease clause which set the land aside for community purposes such as a bowling club.
These variations to the Territory Plan are required for the Brumbies to build 150 units on the site, a move which has been strongly opposed by local residents and is currently the subject of a Legislative Assembly planning committee inquiry.
A spokesman from Mr Barr's office said, ''No decision has been made on the development application to deconcessionalise the lease and Minister Barr will not be making the final determination.''
But retired civil engineer and town planner Tony Powell said he was shocked by the latest move, accusing the Government of reneging on a promise to wait until a Legislative Assembly inquiry into the proposed redevelopment is completed.
''I'm taken aback, because Simon Corbell was going to consider the matter after the planning committee reported on the current draft variation hearing, so it's really pre-empting the decision of the planning committee,'' Mr Powell said.
''In the normal course of events, it would have been addressed by Corbell in due course. They will really have to justify why they didn't wait, why they didn't observe the undertaking that Corbell gave that there would be no decision on that matter until the Assembly committee had determined the draft variation inquiry that it's in the process of doing.''
Mr Powell said Mr Barr's disregard for the usual planning process was astounding.
''There is no point in us having a planning process if they are going to keep going on like this.''
Brumbies chief executive Andrew Fagan said the club had lodged an application with the ACT Planning and Land Authority to vary the lease and denied he had asked Mr Barr to step in and speed up the process.
''As we wait for a decision from the planning committee on our broader variation to the territory plans, we would like this issue resolved, so to that extent it would be advantageous to have that matter resolved prior to the planning commitee's report,'' Mr Fagan said.
As part of the application, the Brumbies agreed to compensate the ACT Government for any increase in value to the land, but Mr Fagan refused to state the amount.
Mr Fagan said the club needed the rezoning and sale of its headquarters site in Austin Street, Griffith, to secure its financial future.