Kingston multi-storey development proposal divides community on traditional suburb’s future

The Kingston Foreshore on the banks of Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin has been praised by Grand Designs host Kevin McCloud as a great example of “sustainable urban living”.

But the site has not been without its controversies either, with apartment owners warning of the perils of mixed-used living, citing damages, noise levels and smelly waste among the drawbacks.

Now, further back from the lake’s shore, near the Kingston shops, affectionately referred to as “old Kingston”, some residents are concerned a proposed new development could destroy the character of the traditional Canberra suburb.

Developer Geocon wants to build an eight-storey mixed-used building next to the post office on Giles Street.

The building would have 106 residential units, four non-retail commercial units and the proposal includes plans to use a rear car park and laneway to create a walkway for pedestrians.

The Kingston and Barton Residents’ Association said the proposal did not reflect the character of the area.

“We have residents in Howitt Street and Giles Street really concerned with overshadowing and their privacy,” spokeswoman Rebecca Scouller said.

The residents group is calling on the ACT Government to deny approval for the proposed development.

A man stands in front of a post office in the dark.
Kingston resident Sam Graves says the proposed eight-storey mixed-use development would create traffic chaos.(ABC News: Isaac Nowroozi)

Sam Graves, who lives next to the site, said traffic and parking in the area was already a nightmare, and this development would create traffic chaos, both during construction and once the apartments were completed.

“I live around here and street parking is impossible at the best of times.”

‘The more the merrier’

Leeroy Petersen owns the Caribou pub on Green Square and said the area needed a face-lift.

“I think the more people that are living in the area, the more the area survives,” Mr Petersen said.

Not only is he for the Geocon development, he wants many more complexes like it to be built in the area.

“I think the more the merrier,” he said.

A man stands in front of a bar. Ice hockey is being played on a TV in the background.
Mr Petersen says the more people who live nearby, the better the community feel of the suburb.(ABC News: Isaac Nowroozi)

Fellow local business owner Eamon Chen, who runs The Chicken Shop, echoed Mr Petersen’s sentiments.

“More buildings bring in more people and that is good for business,” Mr Chen said.

ACT Government guidelines ‘confusing’: residents

Some residents in the area are confused as to what the height limits actually are.

“The ACT Government system is really confusing when it comes to planning and development,” Ms Scouller said.

That is because different documents give different answers when it comes height limits.

“The masterplan talks about four [storeys], the territory plans talks about two, the precinct code is silent,” she said.

A woman wearing a red beret and red glasses, stands outside the post office at night.
Rebecca Scouller from the residents’ association is concerned the proposal sets a precedent for future development in the suburb.(ABC News: Isaac Nowroozi)

According to the ACT Government, the relevant document for this proposal is the Territory Plan and the Planning and Development Act 2007.

Under that plan, Blocks 13 and 22 Section 22 Kingston have a two-storey limit — six fewer than Geocon’s proposal.

But it is not a rule that is set in stone and the Act allows a taller building to be considered if the buildings are “compatible with the desired character, appropriate to the sale and function of the use, and minimise detrimental impacts, including

overshadowing and excessive scale”.

In a statement to the ABC, Geocon said the proposed development did take the character of its surroundings into account.

“Given its proximity to towers which are 14 storeys, our inclusion of green space and familiar Kingston brick, we feel Geocon’s design will be well received by the majority of local businesses and residents.”

In a statement, Planning Minister Mick Gentleman said no development application had been submitted to the planning and land authority and the authority would only assess the proposal once a development application had been submitted.

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