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Split in CBD group over tram construction compound

A split has emerged in the Canberra CBD  business group, with Braddon business owners asking Chief Minister Andrew Barr to quarantine their improvement levy for spending on Braddon, questioning whether the CBD group has Braddon's best interests at heart.

Braddon Forum director Peter Conway wrote to Mr Barr this week, prompted by the CBD business group's submission on the tram, which called on the government not to use the London Circuit car park as a construction compound.

It is pushing for alternatives for the works depot, including  Haig Park and parts of the Northbourne public housing precinct, or building a temporary multi-storey car park to replace the London Circuit spaces. It also urges moving the tram terminus a block further south, between the Sydney and Melbourne buildings.

Mr Conway said Braddon business owners had not been consulted on the idea of turning Haig Park into "an industrial building depot", which would impact on parking in Braddon.

While the CBD group had successfully enlivened the city with activities such as winter in Civic and flower displays, Braddon was neglected. Trees were not pruned, tree roots were pushing up through pavements and footpaths were not being properly maintained, he said.

Business owners had not been able to get repairs made, instead being referred to the improvement fund managed by the CBD group.

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City, Turner and Braddon businesses pay a compulsory levy towards the improvement fund, at 0.3 per cent of their land value. Collected by the government, it raises about $2 million a year.

Mr Conway has asked Mr Barr to exclude Braddon from the levy, or collect a separate levy from Braddon businesses to be administered by the Braddon Forum, or quarantine the Braddon owners' levy to use on Braddon projects such as a local festival and the restoration of the 1920s train line.

But Canberra CBD chief executive Jane Easthope said the suggestion was "unfortunate and unhelpful".

"It's always unfortunate and not very helpful when people just fire off from the hip and write letters to chief ministers ... without actually talking to people and finding out what's really going on," she said.

Using the Northbourne Avenue end of Haig Park as a construction depot would not worsen parking problems in the area  and would allow the park, as a historic windbreak, to be redeveloped as a new gateway into the CBD once construction was complete, through "some very clever and appropriate urban design interventions".

"We need to be respectful and mindful of trade that occurs during the four-year construction program [of the tram] so placing [the works depot] away from pedestrian movement corridors and retail precincts is really what should happen, and investigating places where there's the least, if any, impact on those surrounding traders," Ms Easthope said.

There was no logic to the suggestion of separate improvement levies for adjacent districts, she said. 

"We understand what the issues are in Braddon and are advocating for change on behalf of those owners. And maybe if there's a group that feel we're not doing a good enough job, let's sit down and talk about it because we're all singing from the same song sheet in waiting to improve the role and performance of the CBD."

Ms Easthope invited a member of the Braddon Forum to nominate to the CBD board, pointing out that it already had a Braddon representative, Peter Barclay.