Kentucky's Fried Position: Skaters speak out about proposed KFC site
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Kentucky's Fried Position: Skaters speak out about proposed KFC site

Fast food monolith KFC has met an unlikely adversary in its pursuit of a third outlet in Belconnen: the district's skateboarders, BMX riders and scooter fans.

Belconnen is already home to two KFC stores - one in Westfield and another in Hawker. The proposed third store would be built next to the skatepark and close to UC Senior Secondary College Lake Ginninderra on Emu Bank.

Riley and Toby Williams, Canberra Skateboarding Association president Tony Caruana, Freestyle ACT BMX Club president Rhys Williams, Tyson Jones-Peni, Freestyle ACT BMX Club vice president Cooper Murchie, Jaiden and Juan Kim, Savannah Murchie and Reece Ashton are not happy with a proposal for a KFC next to the Belconnen skate park.

Riley and Toby Williams, Canberra Skateboarding Association president Tony Caruana, Freestyle ACT BMX Club president Rhys Williams, Tyson Jones-Peni, Freestyle ACT BMX Club vice president Cooper Murchie, Jaiden and Juan Kim, Savannah Murchie and Reece Ashton are not happy with a proposal for a KFC next to the Belconnen skate park.

Photo: Elesa Kurtz

The ACT Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate's rejection of KFC's development application was overturned by the ACT Administrative Appeals Tribunal in December but the reasons only published last month.

A planning spokeswoman said the body was "still considering the tribunal and associated reasons", though KFC's application for a lease variation was recently approved by the authority.

At this stage, it is unclear what that means for the proposed development. KFC did not respond to repeated request for comment.

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But the community is not going down without a fight. Tony Caruana, head of the Canberra Skateboarding Association, was one of almost 160 people to respond to the lease variation.

His association's 300 members hold grave concerns about the potential for an increase in litter, traffic and antisocial behaviour around the skatepark.

"Unfortunately, regardless of the real cause of any issue at skateparks, it's the skatepark users who always cop the blame, when in reality it is usually people passing by that cause damage, vandalism and antisocial behaviour," Mr Caruana said.

"There is no need to waste this prime location - which should be community land - on another ugly and unhealthy fast food outlet. Belconnen deserves better."

Other submissions echoed Mr Caruana's concerns, with many more outlining the potential health impacts of yet another takeaway outlet on Emu Bank. Several called for the land to be instead developed into an extension of the existing skatepark.

One respondent, who said he had been involved in Canberra's skateboard community for at least 20 years, warned the ACT government was making "a big mistake".

"I write to you begging to leave this space alone," he said.

"Let the skate park thrive, keep it alive with positive growth around the community's lake. Hold more events [and get people active]."

The Belconnen Community Council rarely opposes private development but said it had spoken with community members, sporting bodies and local government agencies who shared its concerns.

Chairman Glen Hyde said the council did not oppose another KFC but did not agree with the proposed site. He said the proposed development did not fit with Belconnen's masterplan, was out of step with community expectations, and added he was worried about its proximity to the college and the potential traffic impacts.

Mr Hyde acknowledged other fast food outlets were nearby but said it was an inappropriate site for another.

"Overwhelmingly, the feedback we've received through every channel we offer is 'no, we don't want it there'," Mr Hyde said.

A spokesman for Planning Minister Mick Gentleman said: "The minister is aware of the concerns raised within the community about this proposal and is advised by the independent Planning and Land Authority that it is considering the ACAT decision and associated reasoning."

The Belconnen Masterplan envisioned Lake Ginnenderra's foreshore - including Emu Bank - as "a key destination for entertainment and dining".

"A lakeside dining promenade would form the core of this precinct, with larger, better quality outdoor dining areas facing the lake, a greater choice of venues that includes takeaway facilities as well as higher-end restaurants and a more attractive presentation to both the lake and the street at Emu Bank," the document said.

Emily Baker

Emily Baker is a reporter for The Canberra Times

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