After analysing the community feedback from the draft master plan consultation, Minister Andrew Barr announced a three-year moratorium on “government-sponsored development” on 13 February. Given that this only affected the sale of land still owned by the ACT Government, FoHV was concerned that there would still be no controls over redevelopment of existing buildings. Rather, the draft master plan had raised expectations of how far redevelopment could go. After some communication with the Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher, FoHV representatives discussed the way forward with her at a meeting on 1 August 2012. In response to her invitation, FoHV submitted an outline of how the draft master plan could be progressed with minimal further expenditure. The Chief Minister’s response, dated 7 September 2012, was not encouraging, especially as it referred to “the existing master plan”.
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.
The early meetings of the Project Reference Group (PRG) for the Hawker master plan set the ground rules; in particular, it was explained that the PRG was advisory only and that ultimate responsibility for decision-making lay with the LDA. The Government’s infill policy was outlined, with the development of high-rise residential accommodation in group centres being a specified percentage of expected overall need. Because Hawker was smaller than most group centres, the amount of residential demanded would be less than the average. This was the last time residential development in the Hawker Centre was discussed until the end of the year. The focus of all subsequent discussions was on the need to expand retail – otherwise, the centre would decline, just like the local centres in the area had. No substantive justification was given for this claim, it seemed to be a matter of obvious faith.
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.
A major result was achieved on 23 November 2010 when representatives of FoHV met with the then Chief Minister, Jon Stanhope. He was accompanied by David Dawes, head of the Land Development Agency (which is responsible for selling ACT-owned land). FoHV expressed a concern that the infill process at Hawker appeared rather ad hoc and that a master plan for the suburb might bring some cohesion to the process and assuage community concerns. The Chief Minister assented to this idea and proposed that the master planning be advised by a Project Reference Group comprising relevant parties, including FoHV (see Chief Minister’s Press Release 2 Dec 2010 and the Hawker video). FoHV were encouraged by this concession as it provided the opportunity for community concerns to be discussed and considered in the context of the Government’s infill policy. The only disappointment was that the master plan would cover just the Hawker Centre and not the whole suburb.
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.