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Curtin shops decision a win for Canberra

Those Canberrans concerned at recent development proposals and approvals received some welcome news on Wednesday.

Canberra's Land and Planning Authority stood by the requirements of the Territory Plan and ruled against a proposal to erect a six-storey, mixed-use building on the current Curtin shops site.

The decision, announced by chief planning executive, Dorte Ekelund​, acknowledged strong public opposition to the proposal by the Haridemos​ family who control the site.

Objectors had, in addition to writing numerous letters to The Canberra Times, collected almost 2000 signatures on a petition opposing the proposal which was tabled in the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday by Greens MP, Caroline Le Couteur​.

​Ms Le Couteur, who was made the chair of the ACT parliament's planning committee after last year's election, is a long standing critic of "developer driven planning decisions" and has promised a review of planning rules to ensure decisions are made "with, not for, the community".

Wednesday's decision, which throws down the gauntlet to the Curtin shops developers who had threatened to close the site down and let it rot if they didn't get their way, is a hopeful sign the pendulum may be swinging back towards the community.

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It will be no bad thing if, from this point on, commercial interests trying to maximise the yield on individual blocks of land in strategic locations have to work a little harder with locals to make their case.

The big question is "where do we go from here?" with the applicants now having a few options to consider. The first, and arguably the most satisfactory, would be to revisit their plans with a view to coming up with a more modest and appropriate proposal that meets the requirements of the Territory Plan.

This would likely engage Curtin's residents, who appreciate the area's value as a community hub, and could turn opponents into friends.

Another alternative, and one that could be problematic given the language used by the Planning and Land Authority in announcing it's decision, would be to appeal to the ACT Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

A third would be for the developers to carry out their threat to close down the shops until an "economically viable" solution was achieved, effectively robbing Curtin of its commercial hub indefinitely.

It has been suggested that if this were to happen the ACT government should revoke the current lease, making the land available to other parties who would be prepared to develop the site in accordance with the requirements of the Territory Plan.

Given such an escalation could move the issue into what are uncharted waters, we can only hope cool heads prevail and a more acceptable proposal can be negotiated with the neighbourhood.