The development of close to 6500 homes plus a 360-hectare nature reserve will go ahead at West Belconnen, ACT Minister for Planning Mick Gentleman announced on Friday.
Another 5000 dwellings and a second 220-hectare conservation corridor could also be developed in NSW immediately adjacent to the territory’s border.
A variation to the Territory Plan vital to the development of the suburb, variation 351, was officially introduced on Friday, off the back of the federal government’s approval of an amendment to the National Capital Plan.
The Territory Plan variation allows the land immediately west of Holt and Macgregor to be rezoned for urban development.
The ACT government is developing the area in partnership with the Riverview Group. The group plans to extend the suburbs over the NSW border, near the Ginninderra Falls.
The ACT government and the National Capital Authority undertook a six-week public consultation on the Territory Plan variation from late May to early July, 2015.
Mr Gentleman said about 6500 dwellings, including retail and community infrastructure, would be developed alongside a 360-hectare nature reserve along the Murrumbidgee River.
“Under Variation 351 a full-line supermarket at the new West Belconnen commercial centre will be allowed eight years after the variation commences,” Mr Gentleman said.
“This will encourage new residents from West Belconnen to use existing commercial centres until the population in West Belconnen grows to a size that requires its own full-line supermarket.”
The approved and proposed set-backs haven’t allayed the concerns of the Ginninderra Falls Association Committee.
While the buffer within the approved ACT section of the developed seemed adequate, president Chris Watson said his group feared for the protection of the Ginninderra Gorge and Ginninderra Falls.
“The setbacks are far too close, less than 100 metres from the upper falls area” he said.
“Ginninderra Gorge and the falls are also a very important ceremonial ground for Aboriginal people, which goes back millennia.”
Dr Watson said his group was organising a forum for politicians to discuss the environmental concerns and wanted the ACT government to undertake a formal enquiry.
The groups is also worried about proposed housing on a higher section of land overlooking the gorge, as well as the nearby quarry.
Dr Watson said more money needed to be thrown behind the upgrade of facilities at the Ginninderra Falls. The area is expected to re-open to the public later this year, more than a decade after the falls closed in 2004 due to insurance issues.
Belconnen Community Council chairman Damien Haas said he was ecstatic the area would be made accessible to the public again.
Unlike the committee, he said he was satisfied with the proposed setbacks and the community consultation undertaken by the developer.
“In terms of protecting conservation areas, I think the developer has gone a long way to engage community groups specialising in conservation,” he said.
“There’s an enormously large corridor along the river which will be protected.”
Mr Haas said the council was also happy Riverview would fund the delivery of buses to West Belconnen, particularly in light of the potential future tramline to Kippax.
Canberra senator Zed Seselja said he was pleased his federal government had approved the National Capital Plan amendment needed to progress the project.
“My commitment and certainly the commonwealth government’s commitment is to do what we can to make more land available and housing more affordable,” he said.
Senator Seselja said he hoped more would be done to extend Tuggeranong westward.