On 26 June, representatives from FoHV attended a meeting with the ACCC to express concerns about the likely loss of product and service variety and choice should Woolworths proposed purchase of the Hawker IGA go ahead. Contrary to expectation, they were advised that closure of small businesses at Hawker would not be a competition issue as new businesses might open up and operate more successfully; loss of a single store would not, by itself, affect local suppliers and the ACCC does not have the authority to monitor and consider the overall impact of successive closures; possible construction of a larger supermarket on the car park was not a consideration as the issues would be the same as for the current store; creeping acquisition by Woolworths of independent supermarkets at Kippax, Charnwood and now, possibly, Hawker is only significant in that there are already four Woolworths stores in Belconnen, with a fifth to be built in Giralang. The ACCC is waiting on analysis of the survey results to ascertain whether the product and service choice provided by Supa IGA is valued by a sufficient percentage of the population to warrant preserving it.
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.
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.
In response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, FoHV received a large number of documents from the several agencies with responsibility for ACT planning issues. These showed that the government had been considering the sale of the Hawker car parks from at least 2000 and probably earlier, when the Territory Plan was introduced and car parks ceased to be designated as such but were zoned for commercial use. Various reports were commissioned during this decade, culminating in the Hawker Planning Study of November 2009, submitted after the first community consultation held in September 2009. FoHV have compiled a summary of the FOI documents (see A History of the Proposed Sale of the Hawker Car Parks). This summary was written after, and refers to, the development proposal presented by LDA at the information session on 26 June 2010.
The stunning Christmas 2009 announcement that two of Hawker’s three car parks were to be sold was not welcomed by many in the community. To allay these concerns, a plan of what type of development might occur was revealed by the Government at a public information session on 26 June 2010. This indicated four-storeyed buildings on both carparks with a central public place for outdoor dining etc. Parking would be provided underground and on Hawker Place, with parallel parking down both sides and angle parking down the middle (see A Summary of the Plans for Hawker Shops, the Hawker Consultation Report and the Hawker QA September 2010). Much response from the community was not positive and produced two results. Firstly, several residents, who met for the first time at the information session, decided to form an action group and, secondly, two local members of the Opposition government (Vicki Dunne and Alistair Coe) arranged a public meeting to be held two weeks later.
The Friends of Hawker Village were formed in response to the way the ACT Government’s infill policy was being implemented at the Hawker shopping centre (see A Brief History of the Hawker Shops). The first step towards infill at Hawker occurred in 2004, when land behind the shops, near Belconnen Way, was sold without notification. The community became aware the site was to be developed only when construction commenced in 2009. In February 2009, Hawker traders objected when a ‘For Sale’ sign appeared on the car park beside the KFC. Liberal MLA, Vicki Dunne, then raised the matter in the ACT Legislative Assembly (see Hansard 25 Feb 2009). This resulted in public consultation later in the year and, on 23 December, the Chief Minister, Jon Stanhope, announced that both car parks between KFC and the service station would be sold.