Andrew Barr

Development of a priority list of master plans

In August last year the Assembly resolved that, among other things, the Government develop a priority list of areas to be master planned and subject to further localised planning. 

The resolution also called on the Government to undertake localised planning and consultation in suburban areas and town, group and local centres where significant changes are anticipated; and to incorporate these master plans and precinct plans into the Territory Plan.  

The Assembly resolved that the Government report back to the Assembly by the end of June 2011 with the results of the priority list. 

I want to take the opportunity today to provide the Assembly with the Government’s response on the master plan priority list and the way this program will be managed over the ensuing years.  

Master plans are important tools to implement strategic initiatives such as reinvigorating our centres, identifying opportunities for appropriate development and improving access to services and public transport for all of the community. 

Master plans are important tools in identifying the intrinsic quality of a precinct and are even more important as tools to manage change.  

Clearly those areas that are likely to experience significant change or are in need of reinvigoration will be high on the priority list, but it will also be important to include a range of centres – town, group, local and rural – if we are to being to deliver on the themes from Time to Talk.  

The Government proposes an ongoing program of approximately four master plans each year for the next six years, subject to annual budget funding.  

This represents an ambitious program, but responds to community needs and Government policy for urban renewal. 

The 24 places included in a preliminary priority list of the master plan program have been selected from the 17 group centres, five town centres, five rural villages and six transport corridors, noting the master plans already completed or currently under development.  

It is intended to consult on the broad priority list during the public consultation on the revised planning strategy, which is anticipated later this year. 

However, as the program will commence in the new financial year, a selection of the highest priority areas for the first year of the program has been established.

This selection was based on the following criteria:

  • places that are likely to experience greatest pressures for change from current Government policies or other works projects;
  • places that support the delivery of Transport for Canberra – Network 12; and
  • places that support the redevelopment of public housing assets by the Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services (DHCS).

The priority list for 2011-12 is:

  • Oaks Estate, which is already committed and some work is being undertaken in the preparation of the master plan
  • Weston – Cooleman Court group centre
  • Athllon Drive – a major transport corridor; and
  • part of the Belconnen town centre as part of the renewal process 

The priority listing for subsequent years is based on ‘most need’ as determined against a set of criteria.  

The nomination by DHCS of centres for inclusion on the priority list will also be considered where it would support public housing redevelopment. 

Community consultation on the priorities for the list of places, in accordance with this Assembly resolution, will be through the refreshed Time to Talk web site. 

I believe this is an invaluable vehicle for consultation. It provides Government with the opportunity to display information and plans that can illustrate the intent, but more importantly it allows people from across Canberra, people of all ages and people who are often time poor, to contribute to the overall planning of our city and to planning of local areas.  

However I believe the Assembly needs to be realistic in acknowledging that given the multiple communities of interest, it is unlikely that this process will arrive at a consensus position and it will be necessary for ACTPLA to evaluate and recommend the final list having regard to community input alongside a range of objective criteria. 

I will now briefly outline the process for the master planning projects under the proposed priority list. 

Each master plan will follow a standardised process that meets the Government’s community engagement guide, similar to that currently being applied to the Tuggeranong and Erindale, Kambah and Pialligo projects, but tailored where necessary to meet particular circumstances.  

The consultative nature of the proposed process provides an opportunity for the local community and stakeholders to influence the outcomes and guide the nature of future changes.  

The master planning process will build on what we have learnt and are learning from engaging the community on Kingston, Dickson, Tuggeranong, Erindale, Kambah, Gungahlin and Pialligo. 

Through the master planning process we will actively seek the views of different groups, most particularly young people.  

We will continue to include the schools and youth organisations in our processes; which has been a very successful part of the Tuggeranong and Erindale exercises. 

Our engagement with the community on master plans will also deepen the conversations that have commenced on the future planning of our city.  

The process of preparing master plans is an iterative one that seeks to identify the issues, the opportunities and way forward to manage change. 

The community’s input will be sought at all these stages. 

The master plan process will be documented in four component parts:

  • the master plan itself, which will include a vision statement;
  • place making considerations; opportunities and constraints analysis, and planning options with a preferred plan and an implementation plan;
  • a consultation report, which will document the engagement activities, stakeholders lists and findings;
  • a list of investigation and background reports; and an action plan, which will be companion text that identifies the next steps required to implement the master plan. 

The realisation of many of the desired outcomes from master plans will be incremental and mostly not the responsibility of ACTPLA. This will be enunciated through the community consultation. 

Any Territory Plan change that may be required for the master plan to be executed is a subsequent and separate process. 

In response to some concerns raised at the time taken to deliver the Kingston and Dickson group centre master plans, ironically in large part because of the methodical consultation ACTPLA conducts for these exercises, it is proposed that the master plans will be adopted using the  following process:

  • undertake master plan process as I have outlined;
  • prepare a Precinct Code for incorporation into the Territory Plan; and
  • initiate a variation to the Territory Plan.  

Whilst this process responds to part (2) (e) (iv) of the Assembly’s resolution, it is important to stress that the Territory Plan is limited in the nature of policy that it contains as a land use and development instrument.  

As such, it will only be the applicable spatial and land use planning actions from the master plans that can be incorporated into the Territory Plan. 

The planning process to this point will have been supported by extensive consultation including:

  • the consultation completed as part of the Sustainable Future and the Time to Talk work;
  • community consultation that will occur in the development of the master plan; and
  • consultation that will accompany any Territory Plan Variation 

The proposed process, which would produce a Precinct Code, would mean that those development proposals that are in accordance with the relevant Precinct Code could be assessed in the Development Application Code track.  

This removes third party appeal rights for developments that are undertaken consistent with a Precinct Code, taking advantage of the COAG/Development Assessment Forum’s DAF Leading Practice model built into the Planning and Development Act.  

This is premised on one of the key principles embedded in the model and the Act, whereby investment is made in consulting on policy, which is then used to assess developments that are notified, but where the policy debate is not re-prosecuted for each development application. 

This provides certainty for the community and an incentive for property developers to work within the policy framework.  

This means that while there is a lead time to arrive at the point of a Precinct Code (master plan), the gains for the Territory are in the ‘back end’ where development proposals that accord with the Code are not delayed through objections and appeals, except where they depart from the Code, in which case the development application would be considered under the merit track. 

The program I have outlined today is in addition to ACTPLA’s current program of master plans, which includes:

  • the Dickson and Kingston group centres, which are nearing completion after extensive community consultation
  • the Gungahlin Town Centre, which is now the subject to a draft Territory Plan variation
  • the Tuggeranong Town Centre and Erindale Group Centre with the Erindale Drive transport corridor, which commenced in 2010 and are due for completion later this year
  • the Kambah group centre, which is the subject of the Assembly resolution that I am partially responding to today. This master plan has commenced, noting the timeline of reporting to the Assembly in September 2011; and
  • the Pialligo rural village, which is about to commence, again with completion this year. 

This ongoing program of master plans will provide greater certainty to the community on the ‘where and how’ we are going to address key issues facing the Territory. 

It presents a meaningful opportunity for our community to engage not only on the development of their local areas, but also on how we plan, build and manage our city’s growth and change.