from Canberra Times 5 April 2013

A residents group says it is a disgrace that Sustainable Development Minister Simon Corbell has used his call-in power to approve the Brumbies’ controversial 131-unit development at Griffith.

But Mr Corbell said the project would provide ”substantial public benefit”.

Griffith Narrabundah Community Association president David Denham said it was an affront to the people who had made submissions in response to a development application that should have been determined by the ACT Planning and Land Authority.

”The dwelling density is too high to be classified as medium-density for that zone and they haven’t provided enough car parks for visitors,” Dr Denham said.

”They’re building nine visitor spaces for 131 units, which is absolutely ridiculous, so it will overflow into surrounding streets. We also believe the flood studies used in the application rely on 1999 data.”

A spokesman for Mr Corbell confirmed that nine visitor spaces were being built on the site and another 16 on Austin Street. He said flood studies undertaken in 2009 and updated in 2011 were submitted as part of the development application.

Opposition planning spokesman Alistair Coe said the use of the call-in powers would ”feel like a betrayal to those who made submissions and expected the process to run its full course”.

”The call-in powers were designed to be used rarely and in the most significant cases,” he said. ”Now it seems the Labor government use them as the quick and easy option, after an election.”

Brumbies chief executive Andrew Fagan said he was ”ecstatic” with the decision but had no date for the start of construction that will help bankroll the club’s move to a new, purpose-built facility at the University of Canberra by early next year.

”It’s been a very long process. It’s obviously taken a lot of years and

there’s been a lot of people who’ve put in a lot of work to it,” Mr Fagan said.

”We’ve tried to do as much as possible to meet the expectations of the community and the decision-making body. It’s good we’ve got some resolution and we can all move forward.”

The use of the call-in power means the only available review of the Brumbies project is an appeal to the Supreme Court on a point of law rather than the merits of the development. The multimillion-dollar development is now almost certain to go ahead, pending some environmental clearances.

Speaking on Friday from Darwin where he was attending a meeting of attorneys-general, Mr Corbell said he had decided to approve the application himself rather than leave it to the planning authority because the development would have a ”substantial public benefit”.

”First of all, it will provide for improved housing choice in the inner-south in a location which is close to major retail and community facilities and, secondly, it will assist the Brumbies to proceed with their relocation to the University of Canberra and the creation of a sports hub and help put their operations on a more permanent and sustainable footing,” he said.

Mr Corbell said he did not believe there was a risk the planning authority would reject the application but took the legal option of approving it himself due to the public benefit. He had taken into account all the information that was available to the authority including 42 submissions submitted as part of the development application process.

The minister confirmed he had been lobbied by the Brumbies to use the call-in power to allow a swifter decision given the sporting organisation wanted to start construction of its new facility at the university within the next few months.

”Certainly, the Brumbies made representations to me and indicated they were keen to see a decision as soon as possible in relation to the [Griffith] site, and they certainly asked me to consider whether I would be prepared to use my call-in powers, and I took the view it was appropriate in this case to do so.”

Mr Corbell said he had imposed conditions upon the development including that the project be reduced from 134 units to 131 units in response to concerns about the scale of the three-storey development in Austin Street.

Asked if that was a big enough concession, Mr Fagan said ”those further adjustments need to be considered also in light of when went we through the Territory Plan variation process, an extremely strict and extensive precinct code was put in place. It provided for things like a 35-metre setback, limitation on the use of the site, 100 per cent adaptable housing. There were already concessions made at that point in time. And some additional concessions have been made with the minister’s call-in.

”I don’t think there should be any argument about how adaptable and amenable we as applicants have been through this process.”

Mr Corbell said the development had been subject to extensive public consultation and an Assembly committee gave rezoning for the development the green light last year. His decision upheld all the recommendations made by the committee including an appropriate flood analysis of the site, parking and traffic management and tree protection.

“I acknowledge the concerns raised by some members of the community and have also imposed strict conditions on the approval requiring sediment and erosion control, verge management, stormwater management and submission of a temporary traffic management plan,” he said.

Mr Coe said during the debate on the Territory Plan variation that the government advised that the lodgement and processing of the development application was the appropriate time to comment and consider the proposal.

”However, now that the government has cut short this process, Minister Corbell has potentially eroded confidence in the planning system,” he said.

Approval for the development of the Griffith site will not take effect until the site is assessed for possible contamination and cleared by the Environment Protection Unit.

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