Long wait for approval for Belconnen’s Foodhut

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The NationsHeart Christian Community Foodhut, located in Belconnen, is struggling to serve the community from their temporary facilities.

The Foodhut provides donated food to those who need it in the community, as well as providing social connections through a weekly meal. The organisation was operating from a portable building, but due to leaks, cracks and “general wear and tear”, the former premises were demolished in January.

Foodhut manager Wally Harrison says plans have been lodged for a new facility – a community hub building which will also house the Foodhut, providing around four times the space of the original ‘hut’.

“The Development Application (DA) was lodged in early November last year, but we are still waiting on approval and have been given no clear indication of when that might come,” Mr Harrison says.

“The new community hub will mean better access for all our shoppers and we’ll be able to provide a much wider variety of products because of increased shelf space and the capacity to store more stock.”

The DA’s slow progress means the team of volunteers are working from a small room in the back of a church building, continuing to serve those who need assistance.

“We’re glad to be open and helping people – but it’s a real struggle to serve our customers because we only have a small space. It’s not easy to get in a good variety of foods and goods because of lack of shelving and storage space,” Mr Harrison says.

“The room we are operating out of has only around a third of the shelf space we used to have. That means our customers don’t have access to as much as they used to. It also means we can only place small orders with Food Bank NSW and limits what we can receive and distribute from OzHarvest.”

There has been some community concern with regards to “lengthy delays” in processing DAs, according to ACT Shadow Minister for Planning Mark Parton.

“The ACT Government receives about 1,200 DAs a year,” Mr Parton says. “Around 70% of these are not getting approved within the set deadlines.

“Lengthy delays to hundreds of applications are imposing major costs and undue stress on applicants.”

Mr Parton says the rate of DAs processed within statutory timeframes is 30% in 2019, down from almost 80% in 2014.

NationsHeart are working to raise the remaining $40,000 for the new community hub, which is expected to cost around $150,000. Donations can be made via nationsheart.com.au

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