Redevelopment of the troubled Weston Creek residential site on Streeton Drive has passed an important milestone with local residents generally in favour of a revised masterplan offered up by the Village Building Company.
The previous proposal for the 5.8 hectare, former federal police site bounded by Streeton Drive to the west, and Unwin and Heysen Streets on either side, was forced back to the drawing board in June this year after the company lost its appeal in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
The Weston Creek Community Council had opposed Village's original development proposal for 126 single dwelling building blocks on the terraced site and the removal of 68 established gum trees.
The community council objected to the "row upon row of parallel townhouses", a point agreed to by ACAT in its finding in which it stated "the proposed development consists mostly of narrow-front compact blocks in parallel rows dominated by almost continuous paving and carparking".
The council had not opposed the site's redevelopment but had expressed the desire for it to be more compatible with the area.
The ACT Planning and Land Authority, Access Canberra, the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development directorate, Transport Canberra and City Services, and the Conservator of Flora and Fauna also failed to support the original proposal. Removal of the 30-year-old trees was also in potential breach of the Tree Act.
Some of the issues raised included a lack of visual amenity with the neighbourhood, traffic congestion, limited green spaces, and run-off from the steep site during heavy rain and how that would affect the safety of Streeton Drive.
Despite losing its ACAT appeal, Village remained upbeat about future of the project and re-engaged with the community council immediately following the decision.
The new masterplan provides for 340 dwellings consisting of 219 apartments and 121 townhouses, 83 more than before. Three-storey apartments, not part of the original proposal, will now front Streeton Drive.
"Overall, we have dramatically increased the amount of green space throughout the site," Village's general manager of development Nathan Ross said.
"Along Heysen Street buildings are a lower scale and set at an angle to the street to ensure a softer landscaped interface with the existing suburban context.
"Along Unwin Street townhouses are north facing with direct street access, taking advantage of the existing visitor parking.
"A key focus with our revised masterplan was the retention of as many trees as possible on the site and better use of the existing natural ground levels on the site."
Bill Gemmell, the council's interim chairman, said that what followed was an "exemplary effort" by the company to listen to residents' concerns despite the communication difficulties posed by the pandemic lockdown period. The architects and the landscape designers were also brought into the discussion.
"We [the council] only managed to have one face-to-face with them [Village] before the lockdown restrictions switched the meetings to virtual but right through the process, discussions have been cordial, open and productive," Mr Gemmell said.
"There's a lot more green space in this design, it's a lot more open; it looks like a worth entry to the area. This one has some genuinely good design elements to it.
"When we put it out the community, on balance people like it."
The site had been occupied by the federal police training college from 1980 until 2016 when it was sold to the now de-registered company NEB Holdings. In November 2017, NEB Holdings on-sold the site to Village for $32.21 million, a bargain price by today's standards.
Village aims to lodge its new development application before the end of this year. Project release target is mid 2022 and construction to commence late 2022, "pending market take up".
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