Almost 800 West Belconnen residents have petitioned the ACT Government to do all it can to make Kippax Fair owners expand the Holt shopping centre as soon as possible, to accommodate the needs of the growing community.
Residents were concerned the matter had dragged on for seven years, said petition sponsor Elizabeth Kikkert MLA, Liberal Member for Ginninderra.
The shopping centre was built in 1977 to serve Holt, Latham, Macgregor and Higgins residents, but is too small to serve West Belconnen’s much larger population, particularly since the Ginninderry residential estate was built.
The Kippax Fair expansion has gone through four rounds of consultation.
In 2014, the Riverview Group drafted the first master plan. In 2015, the owners proposed expanding the shopping centre over part of the Holt District Playing Field. The government held further community consultations in 2017 and 2018, and revised the master plan; the final version was released in March 2019.
Mick Gentleman, Minister for Planning and Land Management, said in July 2020 that extensive consultation processes had resulted in majority community support for the expansion of the expansion of the Kippax group centre, as proposed.
West Belconnen residents believed the development was imminent, Mrs Kikkert said, and were concerned that appeared not to be the case.
“All this delay has consequences,” she said.
“Residents keep moving into West Belconnen, and each week the carparks and shopping options grow less sufficient. At the same time, tenants at the shopping centre face uncertainty; one major tenant recently announced their closure because they don’t know what’s coming.
“Residents in the community are genuinely worried. Aware of how this government has handled past land sales, they are concerned that something not quite right is going down. Is the government more interested in maximising profits than in following its own master plan? Is the strategy to bring in a national player that will overshadow a long-established and locally owned shopping centre? Without transparency, no-one knows.”
Jo Clay, Greens MLA for Ginninderra, agreed the planning decisions had caused a lot of angst in the community; residents were worried the development would not go ahead, or that they would not get the facilities they needed.
“This has been going on for a decade, and there have been some very confusing and not particularly well-run consultations,” Ms Clay said. “There is a lot of fear and anxiety about this whole project.”
Yvette Berry, Labor Member for Ginninderra, said the consultation process had been considered and careful in order to reach consensus between shopping centre owners, retail outlets, and individuals concerned the development would take over the park.
“This expansion of Kippax won’t please everybody all of the time; that’s why it’s been important to have a considered process,” Ms Berry said. “It is going to be a significant change for West Belconnen and for our community.”
The ACT Government said that land at the Kippax group centre will be sold to provide new or upgraded facilities such as a community hub, improving the central plaza, a skate park and replacement sports ovals.
Ms Berry said that now conversations had been held, the time had come to begin the process for expressions of interest. She and Mr Gentleman would write to the shopping centre owners to “start that ball rolling” by May at the latest.
Peter Cain, Liberal MLA for Ginninderra, has asked residents to provide feedback and views on the project through a survey on his website.
“Many local residents have expressed their concerns to me regarding a lack of progress,” Mr Cain said.
“I’m not convinced enough work has been done by the Labor-Greens Government to address the permanent removal of a skatepark, limited parking access, increases in traffic safety, and the loss of green spaces.
“It is critical that we get the planning process right, that local residents’ voices are heard, and their concerns are taken seriously,” he said.
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