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Introduction

The National Capital Authority (NCA) is established under the Australian Capital Territory (Planning and Land Management) Act 1988 (the Act). The current National Capital Plan (the Plan) came into effect on 21 January 1990. In accordance with the Act, the NCA is required to keep the Plan under constant review and to propose amendments to it where necessary. The object of the Plan is 'to ensure that Canberra and the Territory are planned and developed in accordance with their national significance.'

The Plan identifies matters of national significance in the planning and development of Canberra and the Territory. These are:

  • The pre-eminence of the role of Canberra and the Territory as the National Capital.
  • Preservation and enhancement of the landscape features which give the National Capital its character and setting.
  • Respect for the key elements of Walter Burley Griffin's formally adopted plan for Canberra.
  • Creation, preservation and enhancement of fitting sites, approaches and backdrops for national institutions and ceremonies as well as National Capital Uses.
  • The development of a city which both respects the environmental values and reflects national concerns with sustainability of Australia's urban areas.

Within the framework of this legislative object or goal, key objectives of the Plan are to:

  • Recognise the pre-eminence of the role of Canberra and the Territory as Australia's National Capital.
  • Further develop and enhance the Central National Area which includes the Parliamentary Zone and its setting and the main diplomatic sites and national institutions, as the heart of the National Capital.
  • Emphasise the national significance of the main avenues and approach routes.
  • Respect the geometry and intent of Walter Burley Griffin's formally adopted plan for Canberra.
  • Maintain and enhance the landscape character of Canberra and the Territory as the setting for the National Capital.
  • Protect the undeveloped hill tops and the open spaces which divide and give form to Canberra's urban area.
  • Provide a plan offering flexibility and choice to enable the Territory government properly to fulfil its functions.
  • Support and promote environmentally responsible urban development practices.

The purpose of Draft Amendment 85 – West Belconnen Urban Development (DA85) is to alter the land uses of West Belconnen from Hills, Ridges and Buffers and Broadacre to enable urban development. A reconfiguration of the Murrumbidgee River Corridor is also proposed.
DA85 to the Plan (set out in Part 2: National Capital Plan Draft Amendment 85 – West Belconnen Urban Development) has been prepared in accordance with section 23 of the Act.

Part 1: Context

1.1 Background

DA85 is in response to a request received from the Riverview Group, acting on behalf of the ACT Government's Land Development Agency (LDA). The LDA has appointed Riverview Projects (ACT) Pty Ltd to manage the project.

The LDA has proposed that the town of Belconnen be extended immediately to the west of the suburbs of Holt and Macgregor for future urban development. The urban investigation area of West Belconnen was originally identified in the Canberra Spatial Plan (2004).  The development potential was confirmed in the ACT Planning Strategy in 2012.

The proposal for West Belconnen is for the development of 6500 dwellings with associated retail and community infrastructure, and for a contiguous conservation corridor of 360Ha along the Murrumbidgee River. The proposed development extends into New South Wales with potential for 5000 dwellings with a further 220Ha of conservation corridor. The NSW component of the proposal is outside the jurisdiction of the NCA.

The Plan sets broad land uses for the Territory, including the extent of urban areas. The Territory Plan defines specific uses within Urban Areas. DA85 is required to allow urban development for West Belconnen. The NCA Draft Amendment process will occur concurrently with a Territory Plan Variation (TPV). DA85 will redefine the broad land uses for the site in the General Policy Plan (Metropolitan Canberra) of the Plan, while a variation to the Territory Plan will define detailed urban land use provisions.

The Site

The DA85 site area consists of the following rural blocks: 853; 856; 857; 858; 859; 860; 993; 1329; 1332; 1333; 1420; 1440; 1442; 1540; 1559; 1560;1586; 1605; 1606; 1607; 1613; 1621; 1622; and parts of Block 1620 Belconnen, Block 7 Section 149 Macgregor and Block 2 Section 186 Dunlop. Land proposed for development adjacent to the subject area in NSW falls outside the jurisdiction of the Plan. See Figure 1 for a locality map of the site.

The area subject to DA85 is approximately 1200Ha. The land is bounded on the east by Stockdill Drive and the Belconnen Magpies Golf Course, on the south by the Murrumbidgee River, on the west by the ACT border, and on the north by the Canberra substation, Parkwood Road and the Belconnen landfill site.

The neighbouring land in NSW subject to investigation is bounded by the Murrumbidgee River and Ginninderra Creek. This land forms a peninsula that is geographically isolated from NSW urban centres such as Yass and is only accessible from the ACT.

Figure 1 - Site locality and General Policy Plan, West Belconnen Site

West Belconnen Planning Study Report

A report supporting the Draft Amendment was prepared by A T Adams Consulting Pty Ltd on 14 November 2014 on behalf of Riverview Group. This report was prepared to support the Draft Amendment to the Plan. Further information on the proposed development is available as part of the supporting materials for the Territory Plan Variation (DV351).

Chapters Two and Nine of the report cover matters of particular import to the Plan. Chapter Two evaluates the West Belconnen proposal in the context of the National Capital landscape setting, a matter of National Significance recognised in the Plan. The report contends that the current Hills, Ridges and Buffer Spaces within the study area are not hills or ridges, and are instead a buffer bound by the administrative boundary of the ACT/NSW border and the Belconnen urban area rather than any geographic feature.

The proposed development will be naturally contained by the Murrumbidgee River, a range of hills immediately to the north and the hills and ranges beyond the Murrumbidgee to the west. The landscape buffer that will be formed by the river, the creek and the hills will ensure that the rural and bushland landscape setting will be maintained.

Chapter Nine of the report assesses the proposal against the objectives and relevant principles and policies of the Plan. The assessment against relevant National Capital Plan objectives illustrates that the proposal is not inconsistent with:

  • Maintaining and enhancing the landscape character of Canberra and the Territory as the setting for the National Capital
  • Protecting the undeveloped hill tops and the open spaces which divide and give form to Canberra's urban areas
  • Provide a plan offering flexibility and choice to enable the Territory Government properly to fulfil its functions
  • Support and promote environmentally responsible urban development practices

The National Capital Plan

In order to allow residential development at West Belconnen an amendment to the Plan is required. The Plan, through the General Policy Plan (Metropolitan Canberra), sets out broad land use categories across the ACT. Land in the West Belconnen project area falls within three land use categories:

  • River Corridors
  • Hills, ridges and Buffer Spaces
  • Broadacre Areas.

These three land uses do not permit large scale urban development.

The Hills, Ridges and Buffer Spaces and River Corridor land use categories form part of the National Capital Open Space System (NCOSS). The NCOSS recognises the importance of the natural setting of the National Capital, and provides an integrated system which protects the environmental quality of Canberra's present and future water catchments, river systems, and important ecological and heritage areas from the increasing pressure of Canberra's growth. While each part has its own land use and character they are all interrelated as parts of a total system.

Hills, Ridges and Buffers

The policies of the NCOSS seek to protect the 'nationally significant open space framework, visual backdrop and landscape setting for the National Capital'. More specifically, policies for the NCOSS in general, and principles and policies for Hills, Ridges and Buffer Spaces, require that:

  • the NCOSS be planned to frame and enhance existing and future urban areas.
  • hills, ridges and buffer spaces maintain the visual definition and physical containment of the towns to ensure that their landscape, environmental and recreation values become an integral part of the National Capital.
  • the landscape character of the hills and ridges will be protected and enhanced to provide a unified landscape setting for the National Capital.

The proposed development is largely along a peninsula of land bordered to the west by the Murrumbidgee River and Ginninderra Creek.  The proposal to extend urban areas along this peninsula to the ACT/NSW border (and later, into NSW itself) is based on the intention that the containment of the urban areas described as a principle of the Plan is achieved by preservation of the hills and mountain range located to the west of the Murrumbidgee River.

River Corridors

The Plan identifies the Murrumbidgee River Corridor as part of the NCOSS and as a major environmental and recreational resource. Recent detailed environmental research has defined the habitat area of the Pink-tailed Worm Lizard and an area of White Box-Yellow Box-Blakely's Red Gum Grassy Woodland and Derived Native Grassland (grassy woodland). Both are within matters of national environmental significance, the Pink-tailed Worm Lizard is listed as vulnerable and  grassy woodland is listed as critically endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999) (EPBC Act).

The definition of these areas has informed a proposal to reconfigure the boundary of the River Corridor in the Plan to protect both species. The proposed reconfiguration of the boundary will equate to an additional 80Ha of land within the Murrumbidgee River Corridor.

Broadacre Areas

Broadacre Areas may act as buffers between towns, provide sites for uses which require large land areas or may benefit from or be best located within a non-urban setting, and in some cases provide a land bank for future urban areas.

The site has the potential to meet an identified demand for housing while not expected to cause a deleterious impact to the Broadacre land stock in the ACT. To the south east of the Draft Amendment area, 173Ha of Broadacre land will remain.

Authority decision

On 28 August 2014, the Authority agreed to prepare a draft amendment to the Plan to allow urban development at West Belconnen.

1.2    Explanatory Statement

1.2.1    Existing National Capital Plan Provisions

The General Policy Plan (Metropolitan Plan) currently identifies the area as Hills, Ridges and Buffers, River Corridor and Broadacre Areas as shown in Figure 2 below. An area under investigation for Urban Use is identified to the north of Fraser and Dunlop.

General Policy Plan of the National Capital Plan prior to DA 85

Figure 2 - Existing General Policy Plan (Metropolitan Canberra) Provisions

The corridor of the Murrumbidgee River is defined in the Plan and shown in Figure 3 below. The landscape and heritage values as well as ecological continuity for this zone are to be reinforced and preserved.

 

Special Requirements of the National Capital Plan prior to DA 85

Figure 3 - Existing Murrumbidgee River Corridor (Special Requirements)

The introduction of the Plan, under Urban Development, provides commentary regarding possible additional urban development at the north-west fringe of the Belconnen township.

The Plan provides commentary regarding the West Belconnen Area Under Investigation.  The Plan also references Appendix W which was removed in Amendment 81.

1.2.2 Effect of the Draft Amendment

The proposed amendment to the Plan will expand the Urban Area of Belconnen to the ACT/NSW border, redefine the Murrumbidgee River corridor and remove the area under investigation for urban use.

General Policy Plan of the National Capital Plan proposed by DA 85

Figure 4 - Proposed General Policy Plan (Metropolitan Canberra) Provisions

The redefined Murrumbidgee River corridor (Special Requirements) is shown in Figure 5 below.

Special Requirements of the National Capital Plan proposed by DA 85

Figure 5 - Proposed Murrumbidgee River Corridor (Special Requirements)

DA85 will remove references to the Belconnen Area Under Investigation for Urban Use to reflect that this area is no longer under investigation.

1.3    Draft Amendment Process

The process for making an amendment to the Plan is outlined below:

  1. What has been done
    • Proposal by the NCA of a Draft Amendment to the Plan
  2. Current Status
    • Public consultation on a Draft Amendment
  3. What is Next
    • Submission to Minister
    • Action by Minister
    • Parliamentary scrutiny
    • Expiration of disallowance period

1.4    Public Consultation

The NCA welcomes written comments on DA85 from interested parties as part of the consultation process. All responses received will be considered before Draft Amendment 85 is submitted to the Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

Hard-copies of DA85 are available on request by calling (020 6271 2888.

A public information session will be held at 6pm on 4 June 2015 at Shop 2 (car park frontage), Kippax Fair Shopping Centre, Hardwick Crescent, Holt ACT 2615.

The NCA requests that interested parties register their interest in attending the information session by completing the RSVP form at terrplan@act.gov.au by 1 June 2015.

Submissions on DA85 are invited until close of business on 6 July 2015.

A single point for submitting comments to National Capital Plan Draft Amendment 85 and Territory Plan Variation 351 has been established. Submissions will be considered by both the National Capital Authority and the ACT Government's Environmental Planning Directorate.

Comments should include your name and contact details, and be addressed to the Territory Plan Variation Unit. Comments can be:

  • emailed to terrplan@act.gov.au
  • mailed to Territory Plan Comments, GPO Box 158, Canberra, ACT 2601
  • delivered to EPD's Customer Service Centre at 16 Challis Street, Dickson

Further information on Draft Amendment 85 is available from Richard Nash by telephone on (02) 6271 2888 or email draft.amendment@natcap.gov.au.

Permission to disclose name and address

The NCA seeks an open and transparent DCP process. Following public consultation on the draft amendment, the NCA will prepare a Consultation Report which will be published on the NCA website. This report will include a summary of each submission. The NCA intends to publish the name and suburb of each person making the submission, but will not publish contact details (such as physical address, email or phone number).

If you have a concern about having your name published on the internet or if you wish to make a confidential submission, you must make this clear when submitting your comments. Say why you want your submission to be kept confidential.

The NCA will consider requests for confidentiality, but cannot make promises in advance. If you have concerns about confidentiality, please contact the NCA to discuss before making a submission.

Part 2: National Capital Plan Amendment 85 – West Belconnen Urban Development

The National Capital Plan is amended by the following:

Introduction – Elements of the Plan

  1. Delete the last sentence of paragraph one under the section titled 'Urban Development'.
  2. Delete paragraphs two, three, four and five under the section titled 'Areas Under Investigation'.
  3. Delete Figure 1 'General Policy Plan – Metropolitan Canberra' and replace with the following:

Figure 1 of the National Capital Plan as proposed by DA 85

General Policy Plan – Metropolitan Canberra

Part One Principles, Policies and Standards, Designated Areas, Special Requirements

  1. Delete Figure 27 'Special Requirements' and replace with the following:

Figure 27 of the Plan as Proposed by DA 85

Special Requirements