GREENS RESPONSE TO GAHRAG’S QUESTIONNAIRE ON

FEDERAL GOLF CLUB’S DEVELOPMENT PROPOSAL FOR THE GOLF COURSE.

 

Date – 5 October 2016

 

Question 1. :-  Do you believe that the FGC is in a unique bushland site which is inappropriate for urban development?

Response

The ACT Greens agree that the points mentioned by the Garran and Hughes Residents Action Group (GAHRAG) about Federal Golf Club (FGC) development proposal mean that residential development there is problematic.

One of the most ecologically significant features of the FGC is its location adjacent to the Red Hill Nature Reserve.  It is important that areas around the perimeter of the Golf Course are protected and managed in a way that is consistent with management of the nature reserve.  Ideally the boundary should be rationalised to reduce the length of the boundary and the edge effects.  It could be appropriate to add some areas of FGC to the Red Hill reserve to achieve this.

In other parts of the FGC, though significant trees remain, much of the site is highly modified.  A significant amount of the bushland has been cleared and the grass irrigated and fertilised for many years which has significantly modified what would have otherwise been woodland and grassland communities.

The Greens observe that the FGC is on a North West slope without any significant local water supply.  Canberra has a number of golf clubs, many of which are considering residential developments.  The first residential development at Holt golf course put residences in the middle of the course, as FGC proposes, but it has subsequently had a second territory variation to allow more residential developments. The Greens are concerned that something like this could happen at FGC – where residences are built at the centre, as proposed, but then in the future more would be built, close to the reserve with very poor access.

The current access to the FGC is not suitable access for a residential development, especially designed for older residents who may not be confident drivers or over time may no longer be able to drive.  It raises questions such as how a bus service would be provided to the residents in the future?

If FCG wishes to proceed with any development, the Greens would want to see a full consideration of:

  • Long term viability of the club so that there isn’t more ad hoc development in the future;
  • Environment values of FGC;
  • Impact of Red Hill nature reserve;
  • Bushfire impact;
  • Impact on the immediate neighbours and the broader community; and
  • Urban planning issues such as transport and access to local services

If urban development was to be planned for any part of the FGC, it would seem sensible for it to be located closer to existing infrastructure and services in Garran, Hughes and the Woden Town Centre.

Consultation and planning for any such development proposal should fully engage with the community, not just the FGC members and immediate neighbours.  Any variation to the Territory Plan should be done in an open way, where there is a genuine desire to find the best outcome.  The Greens do not support a ‘tick and flick’ exercise where the proponents have already decided the outcome.   It should be a joint exercise with community, government and the FGC.

Question 2. :- Do you agree that a development of the type proposed by the FGC is likely to have a detrimental impact on the environmental values within and outside the FGC area?

Response

The current proposal, with its single point of access, would increase the volume of traffic on the existing access road which would require widening and/or realignment.  This would have environmental impacts both inside and outside the FGC area.

It would be important to ban cats, and possibly dogs, from the development as they would be incompatible with the surrounding nature reserve.

It would be important to retain as many as possible of the mature trees.  However, the development proposal does seem to be located in a largely cleared area which will reduce the impact on environmental values.

Question 3. :-  Do you agree that there should be no change to the rights of the FGC under their Crown Lease and the Territory Plan to enable the club to undertake residential development?

Response

The land was granted for a public use. As a matter of principle the ACT Greens believe that land granted for a community use should remain in community hands.  The Greens also do not want to see any net loss of community land.  If any community land is lost, there should be adequate replacement in areas that need community facilities. However, some flexibility is required to ensure that clubs can diversify their income stream in order to continue to provide the community benefits they do.

Question 4. :- Are you concerned that adjoining residents will be adversely affected by the development and suffer a loss of value on their properties and a significant loss of amenity?

Response

Canberra is growing at about 5,000 people a year, much of that due natural increase. As Canberra population grows, higher density development will be needed, particularly in central areas. The ACT Greens believe that high quality infill development is preferable to development on the fringes which impacts the surrounding bushland and leads to unsustainable travel patterns.  As Canberra grows we must ensure that our valuable reserves and parks are retained and managed to a high standard so that residents can enjoy the great benefits this city has to offer, now and into the future.  This is one reason why the Red Hill nature reserve is so important.

In any development, the impact on existing residents is a key factor to be considered and any impact should be minimal as far as possible.  This means ensuring that additional traffic does not lead to rat running and that solar access in maintained.  As far as possible visual amenity should be preserved and noise levels minimised in any development.

Question 5. :- Do you believe that clubs granted highly concessional access to land for very limited purposes should later be allowed to obtain massive benefits that other clubs and community groups (perhaps more deserving) are excluded?

Response

The ACT Greens believe that land granted for a community use should continue to be used by the community.  We do not believe clubs should be able to make large windfall profits by turning community land into a private asset.  If the Club is not able to remain economically viable, alternative uses for the land should be considered.  This could be by making the land available to other community groups or surrendering it to the Government.  The Government could then undertake a Master Planning exercise for the whole precinct to identify environmental, community and economic opportunities.

However, as stated in 3 above, some flexibility is required to ensure that clubs can diversify their income stream to be able to continue to provide the community benefits they do.

Maiy Azize

ACT Greens Campaign Manager

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GAHRAG SEEKS VIEWS OF POLITICAL PARTIES BEFORE ACT ELECTION ON FEDERAL GOLF CLUB DEVELOPMENT PROPOSAL

While the FGC has already formulated key features of its development proposal, and put this to a vote of its members, it is likely that a formal development application will only be submitted to the ACT Government after the upcoming 2016 election.
GAHRAG wishes to ascertain the position that candidates and parties are taking on this proposed development before the ACT election so its members and other interested community groups and individuals can be fully informed on this matter when determining how they might vote at the election. Political parties will be approached to provide their position on this proposal with the results to be made available on this website in the near future.
When FGC put forward a similar, but smaller, proposal in 2010/11. Over 2,000 people signed a petition opposing it. The Government rejected this development. This was the 7th rejection of an FGC development proposal for the Course.

WHAT’S PLANNED

The development proposal involves construction of 120 residences for an over 55’s retirement village on 5.7 ha right in the middle of the Course. In addition, there will be a major new Clubhouse, extensive roadworks and covered parking throughout. Overall, the new facility will cover a massive area of over 6 hectares of what is now golf course and bushland setting. The golf course is totally unsuitable for a development of this nature.  It is located in an isolated and unique bushland setting, with much of the course bordering on critically endangered yellow box/red gum grassy woodland located in the Red Hill Nature Reserve. For the reasons outlined below the FGC development proposal is unacceptable and will be vigorously opposed by a wide range of community interests

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES.

Impacts on Red Hill Nature Reserve.

The proposed development will have a range of direct and indirect impacts on the critically endangered woodland, the associated threatened plant species, and the breeding and/or foraging habitats of many of the rare and threatened animal species found on Red Hill including a number of rare and threatened bird species. These impacts will result from:
     *Noise and air pollution and the spread of weeds associated with construction work on the FGC access road (Gowrie Drive), provision of utilities for the proposed village and construction of the residences
               -Gowrie Drive which is within the nature reserve boundary will require a major upgrade;
               -Construction of the residences will be undertaken over a period of 6 years and involve a great deal of heavy vehicle movement and use of machinery throughout this period.
     *Several hundred people residing in close proximity to the nature reserve resulting in;
              -Increased disturbance to plant and animal habitats and breeding grounds due to increased light, noise and movement;
               -An increased incidence of the development and use of informal tracks and paths through the woodland;
               -Spread of weeds from residential plantings and increased predation from roaming pets;
                -Greatly increased traffic flow along Gowrie Drive (the only access/egress road).

IMPACTS WITHIN THE FGC LEASE AREA.

Several important patches of the critically endangered woodland are to be found within the FGC lease area which are components of the woodland located in the reserve.  The species found within these patches will be subject to the same impacts as outlined above, but to a much greater degree due to their very closer proximity of the proposed development.
*One such area of this woodland is immediately adjacent to the golf course area proposed for development and will be significantly impacted – the Brereton Street woodland.
*It is unlikely that existing tree protection mechanisms will be able to provide any meaningful protection for these woodland areas.
*Construction of the retirement village along with the resultant golf hole realignment will result in the loss of a large number of mature trees on the golf course.
-Many of these trees qualify as significant trees under ACT legislation.
-A number of these trees together with trees in the woodland areas are hollow bearing trees which must be protected as they are important for maintaining bird, possum and bat populations.

BROARDER COMMUNITY IMPACTS.

Impact on Existing Residences

There are numerous existing Garran residences, particularly on Brereton Street, which border the golf course.  Many will be impacted by this proposed development.  Some will be seriously affected with the development planned to come right up to their rear boundaries.
The sort of development proposed is prohibited under both the FGC’s Crown Lease and Territory Plan Zoning.  Residents who undertook all available checks before purchasing their properties have relied on this protection only to find that the FGC is now attempting to renege on its commitments with little apparent concern for its neighbors. The development will:
*have a severe impact on the amenity of the area and that of neighbouring residents with roads, parking and residential units (some of which will be multi-storey) replacing bushland and a golf course setting;
*result in the degradation of a very large area of the golf course for an inappropriate, unsolicited development not in keeping with ACT Governments urban infill program;
*significantly affect property values and effectively prevent any property market from operating in the area for up to 8 years, whilst the building construction program plays out;
*condemn residents to a 6-year construction period (developers own estimate) with continuous noise and visual impact with all that entails.

Cyclists and Pedestrians.

A large number of cyclists and walkers regularly use Gowrie Drive, the road to the Red Hill lookout and tracks on Red Hill.
*They will be at particular risk during the 6-year construction phase;
*All cyclists and walkers utilising roads in the vicinity of the golf course, which are already dangerous, will suffer increased safety impacts from higher road usage.

Reduced Community Access to and Enjoyment of the Golf Course.

Unlike most other Canberra golf courses, FGC’s Crown Lease, at Clause 4(c), requires the Club to “permit free pedestrian passage on its land……”.
*This right is exercised consistently by the local and wider community including  walkers, runners, joggers, bike riders and horse riders.
*Over 5ha of private buildings will remove the public’s now guaranteed access to these areas and have a significant impact on the enjoyment of the rest of the course.
*The character and quality of the course will be degraded by replacing a picturesque bushland setting with hectares of development including multi storey buildings;
*This will be obvious to all including tourists visiting the Red Hill Lookout.

South Canberra Residents.

With previous FGC development proposals there has been considerable opposition from South Canberra residents to any development on the course:
*They cite increased traffic generation, local centre parking difficulties and congestion;
*This opposition will only increase with the much larger size of this latest proposal.

Possible Development of a Through Road from Woden Valley to South Canberra.

The planned Retirement Village will be located in an ACT Emergency Services designated “High Bushfire Prone Zone”.
*Emergency Services will likely require a secondary bushfire escape route for the village.  A likely route would be to link Gowrie Drive with Brereton Street, Garran;
*This would create a full road linkage from Woden Valley to South Canberra, thereby enabling thousands of traffic movements per day; and would have severe impacts not only on Garran but also Deakin and Forrest – fervent community opposition would be certain.

Inappropriate Location for a Retirement Village.

Contrary to the FGC assertions that the proposed retirement village would be welcomed, it actually fails the majority of established design and location criteria for over 55 developments.
*It fails the ACT Government “urban infill criteria” which states such development should “take -advantage of infrastructure near town centres and along transport corridors, including a mix of residential with commercial uses”.
*It fails the over 55 quality housing criteria which states that over 55s villages should be conveniently located, and supported by infrastructure (public transport, bike/walking paths, community services, medical services, shops, etc.). The FGC proposal fails all these criteria.
*Bushfire threat – the proposed village is within an ACT Emergency Services designated high risk Bushfire Zone which is totally unacceptable.

CONVERSION  of COMMUNITY ASSETS TO PRIVATE GAIN

We have noted widespread community opposition to allowing clubs to convert public assets into significant benefits for their members. Whilst each case should be assessed on its merits, there is strong evidence the FGC proposal does not stand scrutiny.
*It seems inequitable that some clubs granted highly concessional access to land for very limited purposes should later be allowed to obtain massive benefits that other clubs and community groups (perhaps more deserving) are excluded from. Golf clubs are clearly the most privileged here.
*In this case the FGC has been offered by the likely developer, cash and other assets to a value of $18m including an extensive new Club House to a value of not less than $8m.  We believe that if club members were paying out of their own pockets, their needs would be a good deal less grandiose;
*If there is so much profit to be realised from this proposal, it should go to the ACT Government and the FGC should make representations to Government for assistance (to be assessed as a priority or otherwise) if it cannot or will not raise sufficient funds from its own membership.

FUTURE OF CANBERRA GOLF CLUBS PROBLEMATIC.

It is clear that Canberra’s golf clubs are all in financial predicaments to varying extents. It is a product of:
*Canberra having the highest ratio of golf clubs per head of population for any city in the Country; and
*A sport declining in popularity/participation and at the same time facing an increasing cost base.
Public monies spent now will be lost when further and inevitable financial problems arise in the future.  The only realistic solution (but unpalatable to clubs), is to rationalise the number of golf courses available to ensure their future viability. FGC’s viability will always be compromised by its continuing reliance on expensive potable water. The Government should not permit patchwork solutions in the meantime.
Under the current proposal, the granting of development concessions to FGC now will set a precedent for attempts at further FGC development proposals when future financial problems occur.  It will prove much more difficult to refuse such approaches in the future, when hundreds of retired people are living on the course dependent on the future viability of the Club.
GARRAN and HUGHES  RESIDENTS ACTION GROUP (GAHRAG)
PO Box 945, Mawson, ACT2607
garranresidents@gmail.com
5 September 2016

FGC FAILS TO GET MEMBER SUPPORT FOR MASSIVE GOLF COURSE DEVELOPMENT PROPOSAL.

After an extensive promotion to its members, the Federal Golf Club held a ballot on 20 June, asking eligible voting members to permit the Board to “seek all approvals and finalise negotiations” for the development of up to 125 residential units on the golf course.

This massive, inappropriate development, to be sited on such an important and environmentally sensitive Canberra bushland setting, has always been highly contentious. It is strenuously opposed by neighbours, local residents, and numerous community organisations.

Despite 12 months of intense Board propaganda, $18m in benefits from the Developer and dire warnings of imminent financial disaster if the proposal was not supported, only 123 members turned up to vote. The total “For Vote” was only 252 (including proxies) out of a possible 700 eligible voting members. Surprisingly, 44 brave members voted No, risking the ire of some “fellow” members and opposing the wishes of their President and Board.

The staggering statistic from the Vote was that over 400 out of 700 eligible voting members, despite the Board’s urgings, decided not to vote. Together with the 44 NO Voters, a total of 448 or 64% of eligible voting members, did not to support this flawed development proposal.

Following this outcome, it is clear the Club has absolutely no mandate to press ahead with this development.

 

GAHRAG Post on FGC Member Flyer Blog

Thank you to everyone for your comments.

Just to remind everyone what this matter is really about, which is the strengths and weaknesses of the proposed FGC development.

The FGC is attempting a massive change to Territory Plan zoning controls and to its contractual Lease obligations for its Course land, because it has financial difficulties and needs money. These changes are for a huge residential village of 125 units on 5.7 ha of golf course land, including 4 storey blocks of flats. To most fair minded observers, this is totally inappropriate and also inconsistent with the Nature Reserve settings surrounding the Course and the Park/Recreation zoning of the Course itself.

In undertaking this proposal, the FGC it is attacking the rights, amenity and interests of its neighbours, local residents and the wider community. As well as impacting the land and environment of a very special bushland setting.

It is not possible to march ahead with this proposal as if nothing and nobody will be affected and the Club’s need for money (to replace its irrigation system etc.) is paramount over the interests of all others.

The stark reality is decidedly different. When people’s rights, interests and lifestyles are about to be trampled on, they will fight back and attempt by all legal means at their disposal to stop this from happening. There is no right of entitlement involved for the changes sought. The only entitlement the Club has is to what it presently enjoys. The road to change the Club has chosen will be particularly difficult with a very limited chance of success as evidenced by the seven previous failed attempts.

FGC members should perhaps reflect on whether their Club and its Board have adequately fulfilled its duty to explain to its members the extreme level of difficulty associated with such a contentious venture. Not only because of previous failures but also for the task of trying to explain to the community and ACT Government why it is in the “Public Interest” to allow the Club to extract $18m of benefits. Those benefits including a luxurious new $10m Clubhouse with swimming pool, gymnasium and theatrette. While at the same time asking neighbours, local residents and the wider community to suffer financial and lifestyle loss whilst a valuable environmental resource is degraded. As one commentator on this has already publicly observed – “It is high time the FGC stopped picking at the scab” of such a many times discredited proposal.

One issue raised in comments was if FGC has to surrender its Crown Lease, the Course will be saturated with housing.

It is our observation that it has been a well-worn “threat” from the Club that it will go broke without a development profit. Leaving aside the reasons why the Club is in this position, this same argument seems to have turned up every time, in the last 20 odd years, that the Club resurrects another residential development proposal. The facts are that the Club’s land has a Territory Plan zoning of “Parks and Recreation” land use and is surrounded on three sides by Nature Reserve. It is highly unlikely that any new land use allowed would be unsympathetic to this current zoning. In any event, any proposal for a change of land use would be required to go through a full Variation of the Territory Plan. Just as FGC itself will have to follow if this proposal proceeds that far. For the record, GAHRAG will be seeking assurances from political parties on their positions on the future of Course land under all possible outcomes.

Golf Club Plans to Develop four story units next to Red Hill Nature Reserve

The Federal Golf Club nestles in a parkland setting below the Red Hill Lookout surrounded on 3 sides by the Red Hill Nature Reserve. Club members will vote on 20th June to ratify a proposal for a massive development on over 5 ha of the Club’s land for a residential village including four storey blocks of flats.
Garran and Hughes residents are horrified to learn of this incredibly ill-conceived development. Our Residents Group will join them in fighting for its demise. More details and comments to follow.