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Debate on urban infill needed as new year dawns

This year will be an important one for Canberra and not just because it will finally bring an end to the light rail debate.

While the local election set for October is winding up for a "yes or no" vote for the transportation system there are other issues the territory should be making a decision about.

It is time for Canberra to decide how it wants to grow over the next decade and whether the best way is up or out.

The debate rages in the territory each time a new development is proposed in an infill location, such as in 2015's opposition to the Yarralumla Brickworks project and Dickson shops redevelopment.

While the ACT government continues to impart the importance of densification in the territory, it is largely an unpopular platform for those in the suburbs set to face the increase in dwellings.

It might be true that the territory cannot continue to develop greenfield sites forever but it is debatable whether the housing solution can be found in approving 20-plus storey buildings in the town centres.

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Planning rules and regulations continue to face criticism from the community and the property sector – be it the controversial change of use charge or the solar rules governing knockdown-rebuild projects.

The loose fill asbestos eradication scheme is still creating unease throughout the capital and will continue to do so until the ACT government provides more clarity.

There are strong concerns within the affected communities about the way suburbs will be changed forever and there is still confusion around the rules for what can replace the demolished homes.

The ACT government would do well to allay the fears and provide the information the community needs long before residents are asked to put pencil to paper in October.

Whether or not light rail goes ahead, developments along the proposed route are still proceeding and these will help shape Canberra's future with or without the much-debated transport.