Canberians call “cool it” on proposed childcare development

by Freya Lucas

January 23

Canberra residents are fighting to retain a recreation space as a development application for a 130-place childcare centre causes community division, Canberra based publication, The Riot ACT, has reported.

 

The need to have more childcare places in the suburb of Hawker, north of Canberra, has been questioned by some local residents, who are concerned about the balance of the recreation needs of the community, and an oversupply of childcare places.

 

Submissions will close on Thursday, 31 January, on a fresh development application to vary a lease to allow a 130-place childcare centre to be developed on a part of the Hawker Tennis Club site, which has not been operational since 2012. Developers reportedly gained approval in 2016 to vary the lease, with the new application representing a change in plans for the site.

 

The Riot ACT reported that the 2016 approval for the developers lapsed, and an application to vary the lease for a project worth $2.284 million, which includes 40 car park spaces, had been lodged for planning approval. The proposed childcare building footprint represents a small proportion of the site, with the remaining site area likely to be subject to a separate development application in the future.

 

While not commenting on this specific development, Communities at Work acting chief executive Lee Maiden told The Riot ACT that “Canberra is over-supplied with childcare places”, adding that “many new services have opened across the territory, but occupancy remains low at many of them.

 

Friends of Hawker Village reportedly believe the developers are working incrementally to build a childcare centre, followed by a medium housing project comprising up to 58 two-storey townhouses, with Friends of Hawker Village secretary Robyn Coghlan telling The Riot ACT that demand for recreation space will increase as the nearby Ginninderry development at West Belconnen progresses, as well as the start of a new Molonglo suburb, Whitlam.

 

According to the development application, the proposed childcare centre at 19 Walhallow Street occupies 3,133 square metres of a 12,600 square metre site, and would operate between 7am to 6pm.

 

Ms Coghlan has previously made submissions in relation to the development of the site, and in 2016 she noted two new childcare centres at Kippax – the YMCA (90 places) already completed and another on Southern Cross Drive (122 places) had just started construction.

 

At the time, another one of about 100 places was proposed for the former Higgins preschool site, with neighbouring suburb Scullin also having two existing childcare facilities.

 

“Childcare seems to be highly attractive to investors at present. It would be regrettable if supply were to exceed demand in the future and lead to the loss of the entire Hawker site for sporting or other recreational activities,” Ms Coghlan told The Riot ACT.

 

In 2016, the ACT Government said it would continue identifying sites for childcare but would add additional lease purposes to the land in acknowledgement of an oversupply.

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