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Pre DA community consultation questionable

Canberra Times 24 September 2016

The value of so-called “pre-DA community consultation” has been called into question, with the Environment and Planning Directorate confirming it requires few details about what consultation has actually taken place.

The issue has been raised around a development application for a $70 million, seven-storey hotel on the site of the former Italo-Australian Club in Franklin Street, Forrest.

The pre-DA consultation done by the developer in that case says a letterbox drop was done covering the “suburb” of Forrest and that a “community meeting” was held.

It’s understood no more than two streets in Forrest were letterbox dropped and three people attended the “community meeting” at a private home in Forrest.

The directorate says consultation was in keeping with the requirements of new laws that came into force in January 2014. No parameters are set on the extent of the consultation.

Developers are simply required to fill out a form, ticking a box if they have done a letterbox drop, held a community meeting or met with a community council.

The directorate makes it clear the proponent “will determine the type of community consultation that they will complete”.

The laws apply to large developments including residential buildings with three or more storeys and 15 or more dwellings. They also apply to buildings with a gross floor area of more than 5000 square metres or those more than 25 metres high.

Neither the developer nor the consultant working on the proposed Forrest hotel will comment.

However, Forrest resident Alex Morozow said the pre-DA consultation done in that case was misleading and limited.

Mr Morozow asked the developer for a meeting regarding the proposed hotel complex.

The resulting “community meeting” was held at his home with his neighbour and the developer’s consultant. He said the only outcome of the meeting was they were shown plans of the development.

Mr Morozow said the consultant told him they were not required to meet with him and it was an “optional extra exercise”.

“This was not consultation and it is misleading to claim it was. It was simply notification,” Mr Morozow said.

He said it was this “totally inadequate” consultation that prompted the inaugural meeting of the Forrest Residents Group to ask the directorate to extend the time for comment on the development. More than 60 people had attended the meeting; two said they had received the information from the developer in the letterbox drop.

“Even if it can be demonstrated that the applicant has technically complied with the prescribed pre-application process, they have not fulfilled its intent,”‘ Mr Morozow wrote to the directorate.

Mr Morozow, in his submission, said the hotel complex was out of character with the garden-suburb nature of Forrest and its generally low-rise buildings.

“A curved-walled building of seven storeys is as tall as a straight-walled one. It doesn’t somehow disappear into the landscape,” he wrote.

The directorate has agreed to extend the time for public comment by two weeks to October 5.

A spokesman for the director said this was “in order to give the community a better opportunity to consider the application and provide any comment”.

“It is not unusual for notification timeframes to be extended as a result of such representations. A recent example was the Coles-Doma development in Dickson which was extended for four weeks. The Red Hill Territory Plan amendment was also extended for two weeks last year,” he said.

The directorate made no comment on the quality of the pre-DA consultation; only that it was done.

“The developer did consultation prior to lodging the DA,” the spokesman said.

“This process provides an opportunity for the proponent of a development to engage with the community and identify key issues prior to lodging a development proposal. The planning and land authority highly recommends this process be used to maximise community input.

“Once the DA was lodged, the planning and land authority undertook the standard consultation process involving erecting signage on site and sending letters to surrounding property owners and residents advising them of the application and inviting them to make comment.”

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