Proposal for 16 storeys on Garema Place needs change

The Conservation Council gets involved in development applications when there are big issues to consider and the proposal for a sixteen storey hotel on Garema Place raises several BIG issues.

Why do we keep doing or allowing developments without having a broader plan in place? If this building can go to sixteen storeys, why can’t all the buildings go that high? Is that what we want?

And then what would happen to the ground-level public spaces? Garema Place is a gathering spot for meeting, eating and greeting and this amenity would be lost if all the buildings get to sixteen storeys. Can the buildings be designed so that they do not cast impenetrable shadows over one of Canberra’s favourite public spaces?

The Conservation Council supports a higher-density city as this reduces the need to keep expanding the city’s boundaries but it is also important that we keep open and green spaces in the urban area and that we build good buildings to serve the community into the future. As we said in our policy document before the 2016 Legislative Assembly election: “Increase density through best practice infill development that ensures a high quality of life for all residents, green infrastructure and space for nature throughout the city, and adequate services.” (Our Future, our environment p9)

The proposal is for a 16 storey mixed use development and lease variation which includes demolition of the existing building; construction of a 16 storey mixed use building and 2 level basement, comprising of a commercial hotel development containing 233 hotel suites, other commercial tenancies, signage and associated works; and variation to the lease to permit hotel and change pavement requirements.

There should be a Master plan for Civic that seeks to ensure the maintenance, preservation and enhancement of the quality of the urban environment and to ensure the integrity of ecological systems and processes for today’s Canberrans and for future residents and leaseholders of Australia’s Capital

The proposed development should not be approved as it does not adequately demonstrate effective integration of social, economic and environmental considerations.

The Garema Place precinct has historic, public and heritage value that should be recognised and protected including from impact of increased height of surrounding buildings. It is inadequate that the building will have a major impact on the public spaces around, but the building proposal has not been amended to deal with or improve the public spaces. The consultation report should consider more carefully the limited public feedback provided and give more direct answers on the reported matters of concern.

The proposed development should be rejected for its inadequate provisions for waste management including waste reduction, reuse and recycling and that it proposes off-site waste management rather that reduction and management at source.

The building should be built to better than the current standards for commercial buildings in terms of insulation, energy efficiency, solar access, local generation of energy from wind and solar. This would reduce the building’s impact on climate change and assist its resilience to the impacts of climate change. The building sustainability report claims that the building will achieve 4.5 Star rating NABERS Energy. This level can be achieved with limited effort and is well below what is allowed for residential building in the ACT. It is time that builders took sustainability seriously and went beyond the minimal and inadequate requirements of current regulations and looked towards meeting the needs of future generations. The development should be rejected because of the low NABERS star rating which will not help the ACT to achieve its long-term goals of zero net emissions by 2050 at the latest

The present proposal eliminates all solar for part of the day over an extended region encompassing rooftops of other businesses and Garema Place as far as City Walk. Depending on season and time of day, it blocks out solar energy across most other southern properties, all Garema Place and part of City Walk. The solar environmental function and value protected by Planning and Development Act sect. 124A(1) is significantly adversely impacted by the proposed development and the substantial increase in overshadowing is not in accordance with Element 2.1 of “City Precinct Map and Code” at page 9. The principle of equitable, sustainable development requires that all leaseholders have the same rights to solar resources.

The proposal includes additional consumption of gas and makes no provision for electric vehicles. This damages community aspirations for a zero net carbon future. The consumption of gas will produce greenhouse gas emissions which does not accord with the ACT’s long-term goals of zero net emissions by 2050 at the latest. The Development Application should be amended so that the building does not use gas

The Development Application does not adequately address sustainability. The sustainability report list various measures that might be considered for energy, water, materials, ecosystems and waste but does not specify firm commitments instead leaving them for a later “design stage”. For example, under energy the Sustainability Report says: “At detailed design a full appraisal of energy options will inform the preferred energy strategy…”. A modern Development Application should be prepared to commit to technologies and to seriously consider sustainability measures for energy, water, materials, ecosystems and waste

We recommend that the presentDevelopment Application be rejected and that an alternative proposal be sought to revitalise Garema Place – the “centre of the centre” of Canberra within existing lease conditions. The development should be designed on best practice for enhancing the public realm, providing vibrancy for the local area, using novel approaches to provide for remedies against overshadowing, make commitments on sustainability measures and generally provide for an improved and enhanced local and general environment.

See the full Conservation Council representation on DA201833481.

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