Is West Basin's path to urban awfulness preordained?

Is West Basin's path to urban awfulness preordained?

There has been a constant ripple of disquiet against the West Basin development surfacing in The Canberra Times and covering a broad spectrum of concerns. Derek Wrigley (Letters, October 19, 2016) noted the need to retain soft green areas, Penny Moyes ( (Letters, January 9) highlighted the need for community involvement, Alan Robertson (Letters, December 31) noted the cost extravagance and his fears the government will proceed with piecemeal sales while the Times Editorial (January 12) bundled it into the basket of developments 'Destroying Canberra to save it?'

The proposed West Basin development has nothing to redeem it other than giving a windfall to developers and a lakeside housing estate for the rich. The public – locals and visitors have everything to lose – vistas, part of the lake bed, a treed green space, an open recreation area and a great deal of tax payer money as the ACT government juggles the servicing costs.

A digitally enhanced view of what Commonwealth Avenue may look like if West Basin's redevelopment goes ahead.

A digitally enhanced view of what Commonwealth Avenue may look like if West Basin's redevelopment goes ahead.Credit:Unknown

West Basin has been a sorry saga since it emerged from the Griffin Legacy in 2004. During its infamous history its shortcomings were recognised by Parliament's Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories and their report of 2007 advised that the damaging amendment (61) be disallowed yet only one politician, Greens leader Dr Bob Brown, had the gumption to formally oppose it but he was outgunned by the politicians of the major parties.

Once anchored into the National Capital Plan, the West Basin development has been nurtured by the National Capital Authority and ACT politicians, lavishing it with nauseating jargon such as "city making", "introducing vibrancy and liveliness", "reflecting Griffin legacy" and "extending Griffin's grid to the lake" while in truth the Griffin parkland legacy will be obliterated.


These obfuscating comments are to steer us from the Menzies' lake legacy that gave us the thoroughly well constructed lake with parklands that we now cherish. The fragment of Griffin's lake delineation to be reestablished in West Basin is constantly rammed down our throats to justify infilling part of the lake and Griffin's planned parkland with buildings.

Staging the development so that approvals are sought sequentially is a cunning ploy. Although Point Park, Stage 1 can stand alone, Stage 2, the waterfront, involves infilling the lake to a distance of 80m from the shore. The infill area is for the much promoted concrete promenade, a commercial zone, bike path, road way and for part of the lakeside row the building estate although the building estate was excluded from the Stage 2 development application. Was the public really made aware that in giving a tick to Stage 2 they agreed to lake infill that will site some of the Stage 3 building estate? Perhaps purposefully there has been a dearth of elevation illustrations for the mostly 25m high building estate that will block vistas from Commonwealth Avenue and loom over the public promenade.

West Basin may have redundant ugly former futsal courts that have had no landscape upgrading in 20 years, but there is great potential for imaginative planning for public use. This may involve attractive food outlets and a central event gathering place near the lake. Importantly West Basin is a much-needed urban green space resource central to an area of intense development. The public's concrete promenade and two end parklets are no compensation for lake infill and the concrete lego-land of apartments that alienate the park space and block the vistas.

Caroline Le Couteur's promotion of community involvement in planning is a most welcome voice from the Greens, who are allies of the ACT government. It's to be hoped this may mean a review of the West Basin proposal. Lake Burley Griffin Guardians is focused on the lake and its landscape but joins other community groups distressed that our National Capital is being remade into urban awfulness.

Juliet Ramsay is convenor of Lake Burley Griffin Guardians.

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