Comment

Canberra's planning is heading the wrong way

Howard Carew has owned a printing business for 30 of the years he has been in Canberra. Since semi-retirement he has been active in community affairs.

TT: I favour more ground roots participation in the growth of Canberra. What are your thoughts in regard to transport and growth?

Molonglo's location on the way to the Cotter and its natural beauty could make it a tourist attraction with unique features.
Molonglo's location on the way to the Cotter and its natural beauty could make it a tourist attraction with unique features. Photo: Graham Tidy

HC: We all love Canberra but we are heading the wrong way with centralisation and light rail. London's total area is 1570 square kilometres. Canberra and its town centres are close to that area. London's population is around 8.5 million. The capital territory has 400,000. Our transport system must be suited to our very unique metropolis. No heavy or light rail, instead electric buses and the car. At the moment electric buses are in production that can travel over 1000 kilometres on a single charge. With them our transport system will cost a lot less.

TT: How does this feed into planning policy?

HC: This means if we want a transport system that will not break our budget we have to make our town centres as self-reliant in terms of work opportunities as they can be which in turn will cut congestion.

TT: How does that translate this into what should happen on the ground in the town centres?

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HC: This means we pour every piece of infrastructure into the town centres. With the information super highway we do not need public service offices clustered together in a super office. Starting with magistrate courts and other legal infrastructure it would be feasible to have them established in north and south Canberra. In time ancillary services would build up around them. This would take enormous pressure off traffic into Civic.

TT: What is your view on the major development of Molonglo?

HC: I find myself depressed. It is forecast to have a population of 60,000. I heard Simon Corbell discussing its role. He said: "Of course it will be a dormitory development". All hearing him would have envisaged a great proportion of the working population in Molonglo pouring down the Cotter Road, through to Commonwealth Avenue and Civic. This would lead to complete gridlock at peak times instead of the partial gridlock that is occurring now.

TT: Do you think we are not following through on visions of the planning champions of the past?

HC: Griffin would turn in his grave. Looking at commercial development plans for Molonglo they are inadequate. Molonglo's planning should allow for a town centre the same size as Belconnen. Its location on the way to the Cotter and its natural beauty could make it a tourist attraction with unique features. If we plan with imagination in 30 years our descendants would bless us. As things are with Molonglo at the moment I strongly believe they are going to reflect on how lacking in foresight we were. When Griffin was chosen to guide the development of Canberra he was attacked as a heretic. Unfortunately descendants of those visionless critics are now in charge of our planning.

Tony Trobe is director of the local practice TT Architecture. Is there a planning or design issue in Canberra you'd like to discuss? Email tonytrobe@ttarchitecture.com.au.