The Canberra Liberals have a strong commitment to planning in the ACT. We understand that Canberrans are tired of having a planning system that is too complex, lacks balance, provides no certainty, is frequently changed and simply promotes Government thought bubbles. In recent years, the planning system has become dominated by lobbyists and other Government insiders who are all working in isolation. There seems to be no vision for the city centre, the town centres, suburbs or the broader footprint of Canberra. This must change.
There is a lack of integrity in our planning system. The frequent changes to zoning and complexity in the system have given rise to an increasing role for lobbyists and consultants to help guide projects through the Directorate and Ministers’ offices. This is not indicative of a healthy planning system.
Complexity of the Territory Plan
The Territory Plan is a key policy document for planning in the ACT. All planning decisions in the ACT must be consistent with both the Plan and the National Capital Plan. The Territory Plan is used to manage development, assess development applications, guide the development of new estate areas and manage the use of public land. It is the ultimate document when it comes to planning decisions.
At almost 2500 pages, the Plan is an unnecessarily complicated and lengthy document. Planning requirements are also contained in the Planning and Development Act, the Building Code and other associated documents. While large documents are sometimes required, the purpose of a planning document should be to set the principles to be followed. Unfortunately, the current Plan is so complicated that it is practically indecipherable to builders, architects and interested individuals.
The current Territory Plan is so large and complicated that it is incomprehensible. It has continued to grow as the Government increases regulations and red-tape to the point where it is almost impossible to comply with its requirements. At present, neither proponents, neighbours, professionals nor planning assessors are served well by the cumbersome document. The incomprehensibility of the document serves as a stumbling block to community engagement and active citizenship as there are very few who have the confidence and capability to navigate the system.
The ACT Government has a very poor record when it comes to housing affordability.
The current affordable housing situation is so bad that former Chief Minister Jon Stanhope said that ‘[It] is insulting in the extreme to suggest to all those families [with an income of under $100,000] that housing in Canberra is affordable’.
Land in Throsby, which was advertised as affordable, sold for an average of $1142 per square metre in June 2016. Land in the 2014 Lawson release was sold for an average of $900 a square metre. The price of fully serviced blocks in estates just across the border in NSW, such as Googong, is less than $500 per square metre.
The Government has been setting targets for land release since 2004 but the targets have rarely been met, and the promised land bank has not eventuated. The Government seems to be more interested in making money from the sale of land than addressing the concerns about the lack of affordable housing.