Planning Minister ‘calls in’ Common Ground Dickson approval


Common Ground Dickson, Canberra’s second social housing development of its kind, will go ahead without facing the standard rigours of the planning process after ACT Planning Minister Mick Gentleman exercised his ‘call-in’ powers on the project last week.

The Common Ground housing model supports people to move directly from homelessness into permanent housing and follows through with various support mechanisms.

Common Ground Dickson, to be located at 8 Hawdon Place (Block 25 Section 72) – adjacent to the Dickson playing fields – will host 40 social and affordable housing residences with a mix of one, two- and three-bedroom units.

It will provide long-term housing for people facing chronic homelessness, with a focus on supporting women and children, families and single parents, and older women.

Mr Gentleman said he called in the development and associated infrastructure works to support people “to move directly from homelessness into permanent housing in an area that is close to essential services”.

“We promised to deliver Common Ground Dickson and this call-in will ensure it can be constructed to help vulnerable Canberrans and create local construction jobs,” he said.

Strict conditions on the approval include: measures to protect existing trees located adjacent to the site; additional bicycle parking spaces; archival of the original Canberra Aerodrome site to the satisfaction of the ACT Heritage Council prior to works commencing; building height and setbacks must fully comply with the Dickson Precinct Map and Code; compliance with utility service requirements.

A ‘call-in’ allows the Planning Minister to override the normal assessment and decision-making processes a Development Application (DA) comes under.

Usually, assessment and decision-making for any given DA is conducted independently by the Planning Authority.

On Friday 7 August, the ACT Greens called on Mr Gentleman to reverse his decision, and instead, “allow the regular progression of independent approvals process that ensures the community gets a say on the issue”.

Pre‐DA community consultation for Common Ground Dickson commenced on 12 September and closed on 7 November 2019 and was released in December 2019 following 76 individual comments.

The Public Notification period for the Common Ground Dickson DA commenced on Friday 20 March 2020 and ran until Tuesday 14 April 2020. The outcome of this is yet to be made public.

ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury called on Mr Gentleman to release the results of the Public Notification period for transparency’s sake, and said he found it “deeply disappointing” that call-in powers were used on the development.

“Our Canberra community deserves better than to have a project like this called in without even releasing the outcomes of the community consultation.”

The ACT Greens’ criticism of the call-in comes as legislation from MLA Caroline Le Couteur that would see both call-ins and ‘interim effect’ become disallowable by the Legislative Assembly, has been postponed.

Clause-by-clause debate of Ms Le Couteur’s legislation, due to take place on 18 June this year, was deferred to allow the major parties more time to consider it.

“It’s especially disappointing that this Minister has made this decision before his party is called on to vote to ensure these kinds of decisions can be overridden by the Legislative Assembly,” she said.

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