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Downer residents concerned about future of suburb

The Downer Community Association (DCA) has raised widespread concerns about the future of their suburb after the release of two ACT Government planning documents.

A presentation called Don’t Dump on Downer was given to over 100 people at a DCA meeting held on Monday 4 February. It outlined their concerns with the ACT Government’s planning documents City and Gateway Urban Design Framework and ACT Planning Strategy 2018.

The Framework highlights a small number of streets in Downer flanking Northbourne Avenue, and has a proposed maximum height of 12 metres (around four storeys), which was reduced as a result of community feedback.

If approved, the changes would require variation to the Territory Plan and further consultation.

The ACT Planning Strategy 2018 features a map which highlights approximately 75% of Downer as an “urban intensification locality”, which it defines as “areas where further development and redevelopment is directed and is aligned with supporting infrastructure”.

The Don’t Dump on Downer presentation showed the DCA rejected both documents, questioning why most of Downer is identified as an urban intensification area.

“It has no school, 90% of community land already sold to private developers … relatively small block sizes, narrow streets and frequently lacking footpaths.

“It will make most of the suburb a heat island with only street trees, which is an unsustainable approach and the worst planning outcome for the suburb,” it said.

The DCA wants, amongst other things, the majority of the suburb to be retained as RZ1, low-density suburban zone; lower building heights than currently proposed; and Downer infrastructure to be upgraded before any more development.

An ACT Government spokesperson told Canberra Weekly that the Government’s vision for Downer is to retain its open spaces and ensure it’s well connected and integrated into the Northbourne Avenue corridor and the Dickson Group Centre.

“The ACT Government will continue to invest in infrastructure and community facilities to support growth in the area and ensure liveable neighbourhoods,” the spokesperson said.

“We are committed to protecting our garden suburbs by encouraging urban renewal around town centres and major transport routes.

“This will ensure that the low density streetscapes and suburbs Canberrans love are retained.”

Shadow Minister for Planning Mark Parton said Downer residents have every right to be angry with ACT Planning Minister Mick Gentleman.

“While there is a place for densification … Canberra is not running out of land and does not need to resort to such drastic measures to make way for a growing population.

“Instead of swamping leafy suburbs with townhouses and apartments, the government should release more land for standalone housing,” he said.

Mr Parton said a Canberra Liberals government would release more land for standalone housing to create more housing options for Canberra’s growing population.

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