The Canberra Liberals are running a scare campaign that is detrimental to public debate about housing choices in the ACT, Planning Minister Mick Gentleman says.
A petition hosted on Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee's website calls on members of the Legislative Assembly to oppose a planning change that would allow a manor house to be built in Griffith.
"If [Draft Variation] 375 is approved, manor houses or their equivalent could be built in any low-density residential zone, in the ACT," the petition reads in part.
Mr Gentleman said this was untrue, as the draft variation made a change for just one block on Blaxland Crescent, part of the ACT government's demonstration housing project.
"Deliberately misleading scare campaigns such as the petition circulating from the opposition are detrimental to planning discussions and risk robbing Canberrans of housing choices," Mr Gentleman said.
But Ms Lee hit back, saying Mr Gentleman "clearly had no understanding of the purpose and importance of community-led petitions".
"The Canberra Liberals support development that is in line with community expectations. Only in the last few weeks, the Planning Minister announced that we need to 'start again' with our planning laws; a stunning admission of his government's long-standing failures in planning in our city," Ms Lee said.
Ms Lee said the petition was initiated and brought to her by the Griffith/Narrabundah Community Association, which represents the concerns of many local residents.
"The Canberra Liberals share the concerns of many local residents that DV375 will allow multi-dwellings to be built on RZ1 blocks. 'Spot' variations to the Territory Plan should not be used as a way of allowing dense developments on these blocks," she said.
"We know that the Canberra community have little confidence in our planning system and this is yet another way of undermining community expectations on what we will see in our suburbs."
Draft variation 375, which was notified in February, would allow Griffith Section 31 Block 6, an RZ1 block opposite St Edmund's College, to be redeveloped into a manor house. The variation would not have any wider effect.
More than 530 submissions to the draft variation were received with the overwhelming majority opposed to the variation. But of the submissions, more than 470 were a form letter.
Opposition to the project has been led by the Griffith/Narrabundah Community Association, which has argued homeowners do not want the surprise of a four-unit dwelling being built next door to them.
The Canberra Liberals took a policy of allowing more subdivisions on RZ1 blocks to the 2020 election, which would have extended rules originally designed ex-Fluffy blocks.
A spokesman for Ms Lee did not answer directly whether this was still the party's policy.
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Fresh debate over the manor house project has been sparked by an open letter, which its co-authors say represents the interests of younger people in Canberra.
"As young people without property and their allies these matters are central to our future and our children's future. This opposition to density and development sacrifices that future to placate misplaced fears and traps Canberra in an unsustainable vision of the past," the letter says.
Mr Gentleman welcomed the fresh intervention in the draft variation process, which
"It's important that all parts of the community have an opportunity to comment on planning decisions and this is built into the Territory Plan variation process," he said.
Public comment on the draft variation closed in mid-April. Comments are being considered internally, which will inform a brief for Mr Gentleman.
The variation will also be referred to a Legislative Assembly standing committee, before being tabled in the assembly, where it can be disallowed.
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