'The place is dead': More join fight for Curtin development's approval
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'The place is dead': More join fight for Curtin development's approval

The Curtin Residents Association has long been in a stoush with the ACT Planning and Land Authority over a proposal for a mixed-use building near the suburb's central square.

But, as the association takes the authority to the Civil and Administrative Tribunal on Monday, it appears one of their own members has defected in support of the government.

The proposed five-storey development would see the 56-year-old Curtin shops demolished.

The proposed five-storey development would see the 56-year-old Curtin shops demolished.

A Curtin resident for more than 50 years, and an editor of a book on the suburb, Peter Forster has applied to be added to the tribunal proceedings in favour of the development's approval.

"It would be great to have some people actually living in the square who can contribute to its life. The place is dead," Mr Forster said.

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"Certainly any redevelopment is better than no development, which is what we've got now. From what I can see, [the building] should be fine."

The development proposal, which was approved in December 2018 after a reconsideration process, calls for 36 residential dwellings and a ground-floor commercial space in a total five storey building.

It would have two basement car park levels, and see the 55-year-old Curtin shops building demolished in its place. At the block's northern end, where it meets Curtin square, it has been downsized to one storey rather than the six originally proposed.

The Residents Association said in January that the building would still overshadow the square, and they also have qualms with how the development approval process was carried out.

The Haridemos family, who own Curtin shops, was granted an extension to submit a revised application some 18 months after their initial one was rejected.

A representative of the family has applied to the tribunal seeking to be added to proceedings.

"I think the application [to the tribunal] by the residents association is partly related to process," Mr Forster said.

"We'll be looking at the merits of the case and the case for redevelopment. Matters of process should be taken up quite separately."

The building's revised design is consistent with the territory plan and Curtin group centre's master plan, project director Zelko Mandic said. The building has dropped one storey in height since it was initially proposed, and its shadowing impact on the square is negligible.

A group of about 30 local business owners petitioned Minister for Planning and Land Management Mick Gentleman in October last year to approve a new development as soon as possible.

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"The leaseholder is very mindful of community views, business needs, and the broader intent and plan for the Curtin precinct," Mr Mandic said.

"It is very unfortunate from the point of view of the client, the business community and broader residents that this has taken as long as it has.

"We are very confident that right and due process has been followed, and that the right outcome will be achieved once we come out of the [tribunal] process."

Leading up to the case's first directions hearing on Monday, the residents association was still waiting on documents to be provided by the planning authority, association president Chris Johnson said.

The documents would need to be reviewed by the association to determine elements of the case. Its first hearing had been rescheduled from Monday, February 11 because they weren't filed, Mr Johnson said.

"The only impact on businesses has been the shops closing because the developer chose to [close them]," he said.

"And they knew they didn't have any prospect of getting a development through for more than a year from when they closed the shops [in January last year] because of government processes."

Mr Forster says he is an inactive member of the Curtin Residents Association.

The association will pursue an overturning of the development's approval at the tribunal.

Curtin residents and retailers were given an opportunity to make submissions to the building's revised application prior to a decision being made about its approval.

Cassandra Morgan is a reporter at The Canberra Times. She was previously a breaking news reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald.

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