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Go ahead for sweeping changes to ACT planning regime: minister

  

The federal government will give the green light on Thursday to a major shake-up in planning for the ACT.

The changes will allow residential development in Tuggeranong, west of the Murrumbidgee River, although it will be up to the ACT government to decide when suburbs go ahead.

The parliamentary triangle's East and West Blocks will be opened up for use as hotels, offices, restaurants, cafes or retail spaces and outdated federal government office buildings at Anzac Park East and West redeveloped.

The first comprehensive review of the National Capital Plan will also allow the CSIRO to sell-off its 701-hectare Ginninderra field station.

Significantly, the land will be zoned urban, increasing the potential return on the sale.

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The approval of changes to Amendment 86 of the plan give the ACT government more control over planning in the territory while the National Capital Authority will maintain its control over areas of "national character" including the parliamentary triangle and major roads into Canberra.

The ACT government was briefed on Wednesday on the final plan, to be tabled in federal Parliament on Thursday by Territories Minister Paul Fletcher.

ACT Liberal senator Zed Seselja said the change would give the current ACT government, or the next, the chance to "do the right thing for Tuggeranong" and for affordable housing in Canberra.

"It's an opportunity too good to miss," he said.

The changes to the 335-page plan were first proposed last June and have been considered in two rounds of community consultation on an exposure draft prepared by the authority.

The authority says it proposes to adopt a principles-based approach to metropolitan planning in the ACT which will provide the ACT government greater flexibility to plan for the growth of the city.

"The Commonwealth will retain an appropriate level of oversight to uphold the national interest," it says.

The authority will remain responsible for detailed planning in so-called designated areas, which include Lake Burley Griffin and its foreshores, the parliamentary zone, diplomatic estates and the main approach routes to the territory

The Australian Institute of Sport at Bruce has been added to the list of designated areas, along with land adjacent to Constitution Avenue, between Coranderrk Street and London Circuit

Mr Fletcher described amendment 86 as the most significant and comprehensive redrafting of the plan in its history, which would provide a clearer and simpler planning framework for the nation's capital.

"As the first comprehensive review of the plan since it came into effect in 1990, the plan now has a better balance in planning responsibilities between the Commonwealth and ACT governments," he said in a statement to Fairfax Media.

"The changes will enable the Commonwealth government to focus on protecting the national character of Canberra, while allowing the ACT government to get on with the day-to-day planning for the city's long term growth and economic development."

Senator Seselja said the changes were a big win for Canberra, particularly for the future of housing affordability and local town centres.

"The current lack of both housing and facilities in Canberra's outer suburbs is making it hard and unappealing for young Canberrans to enter the property market, particularly in Tuggeranong," he said.

"The updated plan will ensure the viability of Tuggeranong's future growth and will not only provide for more affordable housing opportunities but also new and upgraded facilities for local residents.

"Reducing duplication and complexity in our planning arrangements is essential for attracting new investment.

"The amendments to the plan will open up opportunities for development in west Tuggeranong and west Belconnen, which will rejuvenate our local town centres and help small businesses thrive.

"I have been pushing for these changes since being elected in 2013."

In April 2014 Senator Seselja proposed Tuggeranong should be extended to the west side of the Murrumbidgee River to bring more people to the region.

While the plan could be opposed on environmental grounds due to the likely need to build another bridge across the river corridor, Senator Seselja says proposed suburbs to the north of Tharwa were part of original zoning under the national capital plan, before self-government.

The ACT government said last month it would develop a new suburb in Tuggeranong between the existing town centre and the Murrumbidgee River.

The ACT Conservation Council is concerned the plan to redevelop almost 90 hectares of river corridor and nature reserve into a new suburb of Thompson could affect the iconic waterway.

Senator Seselja said at the time the move was tokenism and did not go far enough to address Canberra's affordable housing needs.