Category Archives: Master plan

IGPA Canberra Conversation on Planning

A video of this talk held on 10 September in the Albert Hall is now available at:

How complicated can a planning framework be?

On 20 August, Friends of Hawker Village Incorporated held its Annual General Meeting and elected a new committee.  The committee members for this year are shown on the About Us page.  The highlight of the AGM was a dissertation by a Canberra planner on the planning framework.  This comprises a hierarchy of commercial centres – Civic Centre, group centres (such as Hawker) and local centres (such as Weetangera); the division of responsibility between the National Capital Plan and the Territory Plan – reflected in the division between National Land and Territory Land, as well as designated land and leasehold land.  The other important distinction is within the Territory Plan.  Each suburb has a Precinct Map and special provisions that apply to individual blocks are included in the Precinct Code.  Any provision in a Precinct Code takes priority over a similar provision in the relevant Development Code, eg. building height on a specific Hawker block might be higher in the Precinct Code than that specified in the Commercial Zones Development Code which would otherwise apply.  Likewise, provisions in a Development Code take precedence over any similar provision in the General Code.  A master plan helps to clarify how the different rules and criteria apply.

2014 campaign

On 21 November, the first AGM of FoHV Incorporated was held.   Given that the three-year moratorium placed on redevelopment of Hawker Village will have only one year to run from next February, it was agreed that efforts should be made to engage the community, including business owners, to determine preferences for the future form of Hawker Village.

It was  acknowledged that the ACT Government’s policies include:

• densification of group centres to include residential to accommodate population growth;
• boosting current revenue from sale of land considered to be underutilised, especially surface car parks;
• boosting future revenue from rates and land tax;
• removing responsibility for regular maintenance of infrastructure such as car parks and public toilets by incorporating them into private property.

It is, therefore, highly unlikely that the ACT Government will accede to requests that no major changes be made to Hawker Village.  The fragmented ownership of the buildings in Hawker Village means that redevelopment will be difficult and that owners are reluctant to improve their premises, so that the village has become rundown.

Accordingly, the meeting accepted that the community should debate the best form of redevelopment with a view to presenting a preferred community vision to the Government when the moratorium ends.

An important consideration for debate is the desired building height for  different parts of the centre.  Unless these heights are incorporated into the Territory Plan, the master plan will be ineffective.

It was agreed that a table should be erected at the shops over summer after the Christmas holidays.  A question sheet will be presented for users of the shops to indicate the features they consider essential to be maintained and the changes they would like to see – what is important and what is marginally important. The aim will be to gather alternative ideas and to find a satisfactory compromise.

A suggestion that Hawker Village become a single, internal, airconditioned  space, like the Jamison Centre, was contrasted with the fact that many residents prefer the outdoor feel as currently exists.  How to find a compromise between those who want to be protected from the weather and those who like to sit in the fresh air is a typical example of the issues to be encountered.

The draft master plan

The draft master plan that was put out for public  consultation on 3 December was an even more extreme version of the extreme version produced in the design workshop.   It involved building on every car park and non-utilised piece of land in the Hawker Centre, including land zoned for urban open space, plus rebuilding on all the existing sites to increase height and incorporate residential units on floors above ground level.  A maximum height of eight storeys had been indicated at the drafting stage but no actual height limit was mentioned in the final draft.  All buildings would have at least four storeys and generally more.  The existing supermarket would be removed to allow extension of the road from Springvale Drive to the northern part of Hawker and to link with a new entrance to Belconnen Way.  A new and bigger supermarket would be constructed on the Springvale Drive car park.  This would incorporate public toilets so as to move maintenance from the public sphere to the private sphere.  Parking would be placed under buildings, at a current cost of $30,000 to 50,000 per parking space.  Short-term parking would be on-street with parallel or right-angled parking where possible.  On Hawker Place, this would be mixed with buses passing through but was deemed safer than off-street parking as the congestion would encourage drivers to slow down.

Design workshop

On Saturday 29 October 2011, the PRG met for several hours to come up with ideas of how the Hawker Village might desirably be developed.  The group was divided around three tables, each containing a balanced representation of interest groups.  One table, however, had an interesting composition.  It comprised the General Manager, Urban Renewal, LDA;  the head of the town planning consultancy used throughout the year for the Hawker master planning process;  a trader whose family owns several buildings in Hawker;  a town planner who has an office in Hawker, a FoHV rep and another community rep.  At the end of the day, this group produced a plan that was more extreme than those produced by the other two groups, which were amazingly similar to each other.  The extreme plan involved developing all three car parks, building an access road from Belconnen Way between the hotel and the apartment block to connect to the existing cul-de-sac, and allowing up to eight storeys on any new development or redevelopment.

Retail study

One of the reasons put forward for expansion of the Hawker Centre was the need for retail growth.  As there had been no serious study of retail demand in the area, FoHV asked for such a study to be done.  The consultant applied a, presumably, standard formula to income statistics and population profile in the catchment.  He acknowledged the closeness of other much larger retail centres within a four-kilometre radius of Hawker, i.e. Belconnen Mall, Belconnen markets, Jamison Plaza and Kippax Fair.  A small discount was employed in relation to the formula but it was not clear how this discount was estimated.  The consultant also compared Hawker to Southlands at Mawson.  His conclusion was that there was unmet demand at Hawker.  In response to a request by FoHV, two shoppers’ surveys were then conducted, one on-site and one by phone (see a summary of Hawker shopping surveys).  The results of these surveys did not seem to be considered further in the design of the draft master plan.

Parking

The PRG was presented with several reports compiled by LDA consultants.  The parking consultant explained to the PRG that a recorder walked around the centre every half hour counting empty parking spaces.  This meant that the parking study did not show whether or for how long spaces were used in each half hour.  FoHV had hoped that the parking study would provide statistics on the behaviour of people using the car parks.  For this reason, FoHV requested a shoppers survey to ascertain usage.  LDA agreed and decided to also conduct another phone survey (one was conducted in August 2010).  Again, FoHV were disappointed in that, rather than asking specific questions, general questions were asked that could have several responses.  Once again, the importance of readily-available parking at Hawker was not shown.

What do we want?

The objectives of the master plan were discussed twice, once in May and again in September.  They evolved from a short vision to a much more detailed statement of objectives and strategies which is still available (in a much larger file) on the EDD website.  Realising the importance of the objectives, FoHV requested time to consult its supporters.  This was granted and a decision was made by LDA to consult the whole local community.  FoHV were particularly concerned at the inclusion of on-street parking, which was declared to be safer than the existing arrangement of mainly off-street car parks and minimal through traffic along Hawker Place.

Faux faults

The PRG was taken through a SWOT analysis ( Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) of Hawker.  Many of the perceived failings were cosmetic rather than substantial and some stemmed from the previous planning philosophy that had guided the centre’s design or from its topography, i.e. location on a shallow gully leading to the underpass.  The fact that it was located near but not on Belconnen Way, for traffic safety reasons, meant that some people had found it hard to locate the shops.  Trees and shrubs around the perimeter have tended to hide the shops from view of passing motorists.  The fact that the parking areas were separated from the shops meant that it was inward-looking with few “active frontages” and little “passive surveillance”.   There was some follow-up discussion of the analysis but no real evaluation of the relative importance of the various strengths and weaknesses, nor the likely impact of the identified opportunities and threats in the specific Hawker situation.

A perception of bias

Master plans are usually compiled by the ACT Planning and Land Authority (ACTPLA) which is responsible for the overall planning of Canberra, taking in a range of factors including social well-being.  FoHV were, therefore, disturbed that the Hawker master plan was to be undertaken by LDA, which is responsible for the sale of Territory-owned land.  Its role includes determining how a particular piece of land could be developed, with a view to ascertaining a reasonable expectation of the sale price.  As part of the Economic Development Directorate, its aim is to maximise returns to the ACT Government.  Its approach, therefore, is one of a real estate agent, not one of a good planner concerned about the effect of development on the citizens of Canberra.  FoHV were further concerned to find that the PRG meetings were to be chaired by David Dawes, the head of the then Department of Land and Property Services (which included LDA), and facilitated by the same consultant who ran the public information session on 26 June 2010.  Many of the consultants already contracted to do research for the master plan had also been involved previously with the proposed sale of Hawker car parks.  These concerns were discussed at the second meeting of the PRG on 2 March 2011 where it was made clear that no changes would be made to these arrangements.