[ Canberra Times ]

Narrabundah duplexes demolished to make way for public housing

Date: January 12 2017


Emily Baker

The Narrabundah community has lost its fight to save four brick duplexes from demolition but may yet see the destroyed homes heritage listed.

Workers took to the Boolimba Crescent double-storey buildings on Wednesday to make way for nine new public housing units.

The Old Narrabundah Community Council had pushed against the development arguing it was yet to hear back about the heritage status of the duplexes.

Early assessments by the Heritage Council indicated they had no significance but a submission from heritage consultant Marilyn Truscott described the duplexes as representing "a major phase of the territory's history".

"No other duplexes from this phase of the provision of government housing are included in the ACT Heritage Register," she wrote of the post-World War II buildings.

Despite calls from south Canberra residents to halt work until a decision was made, and a hearing through the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal, the duplexes are expected to be completely demolished by January 18.

"The previous dwellings are over 60 years old and were expensive to maintain," a Housing ACT spokeswoman said.

"There is high wait list demand in the inner-south area of the ACT for this type of accommodation so this is a very welcome development for public housing tenants in the ACT."

But Old Narrabundah Community Council chairman John Keeley described his mood on Wednesday as "crap".

He expressed his concerns about the impact additional social housing would have on Narrabundah. By his calculations, the new developments would mean about 30 per cent of Narrabundah residents were public housing tenants.

"We're an area that's facing a lot of social issues so this is just part of the bigger picture for us," Mr Keeley said.

"We feel it does have an impact and all the literature says 10 to 12 per cent is a good average, it's a good mix, but when you're pushing 30 per cent we say what's the impact for us? What is the social fabric for us?

"When we're pushing 30 per cent it starts to affect our businesses, it starts to affect our assets."

Southside resident Anne Forrest also pushed for the duplexes to be recognised on the Heritage Register. She described their demolition as "absolutely appalling".

A submission from the Old Narrabundah Community Council described the buildings' Art Deco interiors as featuring mantle pieces, skirting boards, bannisters, picture rails and opaque glass throughout.

Ms Forrest joined with Mr Keeley in December to write to Heritage Minister Mick Gentleman and Housing Minister Yvette Berry requesting an urgent halting of the demolition until a full heritage assessment was made.

"It so damages the character of a location and how people feel about their local community," she said.

An Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate spokesman said: "Development approval for the demolition and works to four blocks (22-25) was granted by the planning and land authority on 1 April 2015 - three months prior to a heritage nomination application being submitted."

The last tenants moved out of the Boolimba Crescent duplexes in July 2016.