Chief Minister Katy Gallagher has been urged to allow more time for feedback on planning legislation. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
The National Trust has blasted the ACT government's feedback time on fast-track planning legislation as grossly inadequate. Submissions close on Tuesday and a decision is expected as early as the first week of next month.
The bill would allow the government to declare special precincts and significant projects for which normal planning laws would be bypassed, and the Heritage Act and Tree Protection Act would not apply. Fast-track projects would include the new rail line from Gungahlin to the city, with a ''special precinct'' expected to be declared along the corridor.
This would halt heritage nominations over buildings on Northbourne Avenue, including public housing blocks, and allow the government to push ahead with transforming the corridor and maximising commercial development without being caught up in arguments and appeals over heritage.
But the fast-track bill has raised hackles in the heritage and planning communities, and was referred to the ACT Assembly's planning committee for a whirlwind inquiry this month.
The inquiry must report back on May 6, with a single day for public hearings on April 24.
Architect Eric Martin, of the National Trust, wrote to Chief Minister Katy Gallagher last week urging more time, pointing out that with school and public holidays, proper consultation was impossible.
''Given the importance of this matter, and the magnitude and complexity of the draft legislation, this time frame appears to be grossly inadequate,'' he said.
Debate looks set to coalesce around the heritage value of public housing. There are eight complexes on Northbourne Avenue.
The Australian Institute of Architects has listed the Northbourne Flats (home of Alison Creet, see story) and the Northbourne Housing Precinct on its register of significant 20th century architecture.
The Housing Precinct flats are also on the register of the National Estate, and in opposition in 2000, Simon Corbell, now Environment and Sustainable Development Minister, called for their listing on the ACT Heritage Register (now being considered). Now Mr Corbell is spearheading the push for redevelopment, and says many people find the public housing an eyesore.
He said the ''challenges of urban sustainability'' were more pressing than ever, and the city must think anew about the future of transport corridors like Northbourne Avenue.
''I do not support freezing these ageing and inadequate public housing complexes in time,'' he said.
''I do support appropriate integration of any heritage values into sympathetic redevelopment, such as the retention of representative examples of public housing precincts where appropriate.''
This was consistent with his previous comments about the heritage value of the public housing, he said.
The Northbourne Flats, completed in 1959, were the first high-density housing on the avenue. The Northbourne Housing Precinct, completed in 1962, has elements of Bauhaus, and both are considered good examples of the ''postwar international style''.
The style is characterised by ''simple cubiform shapes, plain smooth wall surfaces, an abundance of glass, pergolas and other shade devices, the complete absence of historical references like overt symmetry, pitched roofs, traditional windows and decorative embellishment'', according to heritage listings.
Meanwhile, ACT Shelter has called on the government to lay out its development plans and consult widely with tenants. Executive officer Leigh Watson said the units were not just ''stock'' but people's homes.
Negative publicity was not only unsettling for tenants' sense of security but ''downright impolite''.
The government should require some new apartments to be sold as affordable housing, and should rent private housing for tenants being moved during redevelopment.
Northside Community Service executive director Kate Cvetanovski raised concerns about the amount of public housing in new developments. ''There are a number of older people who have lived there for a number of years and have a connection to their community,'' she said.
''For people who have been quite isolated or don't have family support, the neighbourhood is a huge informal community support.''