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Gentleman has given up on Gungahlin, says council

Ian Bushnell1 October 2021
Planning Minister Mick Gentleman

Planning Minister Mick Gentleman has “washed his hands” of the Town Centre’s issues. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

Planning and Land Minister Mick Gentleman has been accused of giving up on Gungahlin after again brushing aside continuing concerns about the lack of commercial development and jobs in the Town Centre.

The Gungahlin Community Council’s latest newsletter says the Minister’s response to a letter citing the approval of The Establishment development as an example of the poor outcomes that the planning system is delivering in the Gungahlin Town Centre was utterly underwhelming and showed he had given up.

The letter also called on the ACT Government to take specific and immediate action to adopt a different approach for the Town Centre that will have immediate and positive impact.

The GCC has been pushing for greater planning intervention to ensure more commercial and office development in the Town Centre instead of the high-rise, multi-unit residential creep that is consuming much of the vacant land.

But Mr Gentleman has replied that the federal Liberal Government has no appetite for locating a large agency in the Town Centre and that the government has done all it can from a planning perspective to enable commercial development there.

Gungahlin Town Centre leases

Empty ground floor tenancies in the Gungahlin Town Centre. Photo: GCC.

“Planning levers can only go so far, and without the interest from a significant Federal Government Department, it will be difficult to drive commercial activity in the Gungahlin Town Centre,” he said.

“…The ACT Government’s thinking is that the Gungahlin Town Centre can be a genuine mixed-use area, which has a thriving commercial life throughout the daytime, into the evening, and also on weekends.

“I appreciate that Gungahlin Community Council does not agree with this approach; however, simply keeping the land reserved for commercial activity has not successfully led to large-scale commercial investment in the Gungahlin Town Centre to date and the ACT Government is actively working to find solutions.

“The ACT Government is not able to force people to open a business or dictate locations to people wanting to open a business.”

The response has infuriated the GCC, and president Peter Elford says the Minister is washing his hands of the issue.

He said Mr Gentleman continued to blame the Federal Government and ignored the need to create incentives and obligations to encourage the establishment of employment in the Town Centre, as has occurred in Canberra’s other town centres.

He suggests “the ACT Government’s thinking” rather than its actions will create a thriving town centre, despite the clear evidence that mixed-use in the Town Centre in its current form has not worked, Mr Elford said.

The newsletter is accompanied by photos of the ground floor of the northwest precinct of the Town Centre.

“It’s wall to wall lease signs,” Mr Elford said. “No vibrancy, nothing. It’s just a wasteland at ground level. If that’s what his thinking is like, we’re doomed.”

Mr Gentleman has agreed to be the guest speaker at the GCC’s next virtual meeting on 13 October, and is assured of a hot reception.

Original Article published by Ian Bushnell on The RiotACT.

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