Monthly Archives: July 2016

No smoking around children’s playgrounds

Meegan Fitzharris, the Minister for Municipal Services, proposes to ban smoking within ten metres of children’s playgrounds.  Information about this can be found at and in the smoke-free-playgrounds-discussion-paper.  FOHV submission: smoke-free playgrounds


Canberra’s ‘bush capital’ status under threat as ACT Government buys up land

The ACT Government says it has spent more than $27 million buying rural land in the past two years, prompting fears its “bush capital” reputation could be under threat.  This includes 337 ha at Lands End on the corner of Kingsford Smith Drive and Drake Brockman Drive. (See link)

On the edge of Belconnen, Wintergarden Estate is one of the last small farms within Canberra.  Representatives from the LDA bid up to $3.5 million for the historic estate when it went under the hammer this week in Canberra.  It marked the first time the agency has bid for rural land at auction.  A spokesman said the Government wanted some of the estate for capital works servicing the new suburb of Whitlam, next door.  But Wintergarden Estate was passed in at $3.6 million to another party at the auction and negotiations were understood to be continuing.


Goodbye Hawker Tennis Centre?

Over recent months, AllHomes has carried an advertisement seeking expressions of interest to build a childcare centre on the four courts of the Hawker Tennis Centre closest to the bowling club.  A Development Application has now been lodged for a lease variation to permit child care as a use in addition to tennis-related activities.  This site is zoned PRZ2 Restricted Access Recreation Zone.  Child care is usually allocated a site in a Community Use zone.  Consultation on this closes on 29 July.  Details can be found at  Member submission Hawker Tennis Centre DA.

Goodbye front yards

A house in Scullin, as part of its extensions, has been permitted to build a double garage in its front yard only 1.4 metres from the front boundary instead of the standard six metre setback.  ACT Planning advise that the proponent made a strong argument for the deviation from the rule and that it was approved “only after weighing the competing interests of maintaining the front building line against the resultant amenity and design outcomes as purported by the proponent”.  We are assured that “the approval was not granted as a ‘special privilege’ and will not set a precedent”.  Our letter to ACT Planning, with photographs, can be viewed here under Submissions.Garage on front boundary

Change to solar access provisions

An issue of relevance to many is that ACT Planning is currently finalising Draft Variation 346 to the Territory Plan to reduce solar access requirements.  The impact of this variation is that there will be less protection of solar access on the northern boundary of an existing house when a neighbouring dwelling is extended or rebuilt.  The current demand for large houses in older suburbs means that extensions and rebuilds (especially two-storey rebuilds) have the potential to negatively impact the residential amenity of neighbouring homes through significant loss of their solar access.  If DV346 is accepted, neighbours to re-development will have even less protection of their solar access than is currently provided.

The motivation for this change comes from architects and developers who believe that land owners have a “right” to develop their blocks to the maximum extent because land is so expensive.  They assert that current building provisions require the design of a new house or extension to be “compromised” in order to conform to the required building envelope.

Currently, the building envelope is determined using permitted boundary setbacks, a notional 2.4 metre fence on the southern boundary (the solar fence) and a maximum building height of 8.5 metres.  Draft Variation 346 proposes to increase the height of the solar fence to 3 metres which will provide a larger building envelope and more overshadowing of the adjacent block on the southern boundary.

Currently, ACTPLA considers that, if an existing home will receive 3 hours of solar access to northern living areas between the hours of 9am and 3pm on 21 June (the winter solstice), then overshadowing caused by an extension or rebuild on a neighbouring block is reasonable.  The extent of this solar penetration is not defined, i.e. it could cover the entire wall height or only 30% or even less.  This standard will remain unchanged but the FoHV committee believes that this is not a reasonable approach for older suburbs where residents might currently enjoy several hours of sunshine on their northern boundary.  This is an issue which FoHV intends to pursue once DV346 has been dealt with.

Hawker Village Centre

In February, FoHV wrote to Meegan Fitzharris, the newly-appointed Minister for Transport and Municipal Services, to apprise her of our concerns re the Hawker Centre.  We have now received a reply with the following responses:

  • The central plaza:  “Additional landscaping of the square, including the removal of the caged area would enhance the amenity and functionality of the public realm and this will be considered for future works programs.”
  • Smoking in the caged area:  “Under existing ACT laws, smoking is banned in all enclosed public spaces, including shopping centres … and … in outdoor eating and drinking areas”.  A ban is being considered at children’s playgrounds.  The public realm within the centre is cleaned daily in the early morning.
  • Tree loss in car parks:  TAMS will consider planting replacement trees in the car parks when future planting programs are carried out in the area.
  • Charity bins:  A decision is expected soon about the future locations of charity bins in the ACT having regard to non-compliance, i.e. dumping of goods around the bins.

ACAT appeal

The ACAT decision regarding the redevelopment of 1 Petterd Street on the corner of Belconnen Way in Page has now been received.  In brief, the decision is much as we expected in that the ACTPLA decision to vary the lease was affirmed on a legal technicality, so the development can go ahead; however, the Tribunal has put considerable effort into recording our various concerns and in criticising the original building decision (which it has no power to overturn at this stage).  The Tribunal observed that, if our main concern that these house-sized buildings in RZ2 containing a residence and flat are allowed greated density (smaller setbacks and greater plot ratio of building to land size) than adjoining blocks with a single dwelling is an unintended consequence, then “the ACT Government will need to revisit the definition of ‘dwelling’ as currently provided in the Territory Plan.” 
The decision is available at and has been uploaded to our website for anyone keen to learn more: (under DAs/Page – second entry).