The ACT planning authority had "no other options" but to endorse a decade-old approved development application for a 24-storey tower in the Woden Town Square last year.
The development has sparked outrage with the Woden Valley Community Council who were angered by a lack of consultation.
But further consultation on the project is not required as the application allowed the development to be approved after 10 years.
In 2010, a development application for the tower on the Borrowdale House was approved but it did not take effect until certain conditions had been met.
The conditions included the removal of hazardous materials, environmental approvals and the registration of a new crown lease. These conditions were not met until January 2020 when the planning authority endorsed the application.
"The planning and land authority had no other options but to proceed with the endorsement of the written plans in 2020," an ACT Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate spokesman said.
"The endorsement issued in January 2020 effectively ends the proponents ability to exploit any further extended timeframes unless the development is commenced within two years, and required the proponent to submit an amendment application for any changes to the development."
Planning rules have since been changed so that conditional approvals are only given if they have an expiry date. The authority ceased this "circa 2016".
"The planning and land authority has since ceased the use of such conditions, unless imposed with a clear expiry date, to prevent unintended exploitation of statutory timeframes for developments," the spokesman said.
But some previously approved conditional development applications from more than five years ago could also be endorsed by the authority.
The government spokesman said the authority was aware of "one significant development" in the ACT but it was recently amended to "impose appropriate timeframes".
The Canberra Times understands the Borrowdale House redevelopment was held up due to a number of reasons, including the tribunal case, the removal of the contamination and a proposed change of plans.
Borrowdale House has been sold twice since the initial 2010 application.
After the 2010 application was approved the proponents, Borrowdale House Pty Ltd, challenged the lease variation charge imposed by the authority. A decision on this was not made until two years after.
It was then bought by real estate investment firm Cromwell Property Group about five years ago, the group intended to build a car park on the site to service offices in the neighbouring Lovett Tower. Development approval was received for this in 2015.
Cromwell abandoned those plans after federal government departments left Lovett Tower, which is now vacant. Cromwell was the owner of the building when the development application was approved.
The property was sold to Canberra-based developer Keggins last month. Keggins has signaled its intention to build a 24-storey residential and commercial tower.
The developer acquired the site with the approved development application.
"The plans for the W2 project are in line with this development approval, all planning regulations and the principles of the Woden town centre masterplan," Keggins general manager Brett Smith said.
"W2 will add much needed vibrancy and amenity to the town centre whilst underpinning the economic growth of the local economy that will ultimately benefit of the broader community."
Keggins has submitted an application for amendments, these will include changes to the building's facade and an increase of 14 units will be lodged.
The amendments won't be required to go before the National Capital Design Review Panel.
Planning legislation that came into effect in 2019 said any development over five storeys was required to go before the panel but the 2010 application would override this.
While Keggins was not required to consult, they did present their plans to the Woden Valley Community Council days after they had made the purchase.
But the council has expressed opposition, the council's president Fiona Carrick questioned why the development was allowed to be approved 10 years later. She was frustrated the community was not given a chance to have another say on the development, she said a lot had changed in the past decade.
"I don't know how you can drag out something that is 10 years old and not review the appropriateness of it; things change," she said.
The Woden Valley Community Council fought against the development application a decade ago.
In 2010, the council's former president Dr Jenny Stewart wrote to the then-planning minister Andrew Barr to ask that he use his "call in" powers to reject the approved application. Mr Barr responded that he did not think it would provide a "substantial" public benefit.
But while the Woden Valley Community Council opposed the development, the planning authority said the initial application was notified twice but had only received two written representations.
Keggins proposed amendments are currently open for public consultation. The EPSDD spokesman said the community could raise any concerns it had with the amendments during this process.
Ms Carrick said the development's height would cause damage to the Woden town centre.
"This is the tipping point, this is too much, they have gone too far and this is where we have to draw a line in the sand," she said.
"You are starting to damage our future."
The Woden town square allows building heights to be up to 28 storeys and Lovett Tower, built in 1973, is 26 storeys.
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