Hard on the heels of the four Amendments, the National Capital Authority (NCA) announced yet another controversial draft amendment to the National Capital Plan. Called Draft Amendment 53, it applies to a large area called the Albert Hall precinct that extends down to the foreshores of Lake Burley Griffin and is bounded by Commonwealth Avenue, Flynn Drive, and Coronation Drive. This area includes Albert Hall, which has served as a town hall for many years, the Canberra Hyatt Hotel and the open space of the road easements that permit beautiful uninterrupted views of the distant hills and lakeside peninsulas.
Amendment 53 provides for high rise and high density land uses on the southern lakeshore in the Albert Hall precinct. The proposal has been met by strenuous community objections expressed in the media and at a public meeting organised by the NCA at Regatta Point on 22 March .
Reporting on the meeting, the Canberra Times in an article titled “Expert blasts NCA scheme. Leave Albert Hall alone, says professor” on 25 March, stated that the former chair of the ACT Heritage Committee, Professor John Mulvaney, had said that:
“As a major heritage precinct, it should not become cluttered with other structures for which the NCA, in any case, appears to have no designated function”. The Canberra Times article went on to state that Professor Mulvaney “was also critical of an eight-storey ‘landmark’ building, proposed for the western side of Constitution Avenue, which he said was justified at the meeting for providing a balance with the National Library”.
“This suggests that the NCA aesthetic relates to the built environment. It entirely overlooks the alternative aesthetic of the natural environment. “
“At present the majestic landscape stretching to the Brindabellas provides a vista from the bridge, or better still, for viewers from Commonwealth Gardens over the lake. “
In a second letter to the Canberra Times on 28 March, Professor Mulvaney discussed the proposed Immigration Bridge in this precinct:
“The Immigration Bridge has been omitted from consideration in Draft Amendment 53. As it represents a significant factor in transport arrangements and must occupy some of the vaunted open space claimed by NCA, its omission suggests another example of divide and rule processes at work. What impact will this 12 metre plus structure have upon the general vista?
Necessary lift structures for those unable to climb many stairs may bulk the structure at Flynn Drive. It simply is unacceptable procedure to consider the future Albert Hall Precinct without taking this structure into account. Further, the already cramped nature of the museum site may suffer further from the bridge’s impact and from access pathways, not to mention its aesthetic appearance.”
A ‘Friends of the Albert Hall’ group has been established and is collecting signatures for a petition opposing the NCA plans for the Albert Hall Precinct. Further information www.ouralberthall.com
Draft Amendment 53 can be viewed on the NCA website at www.nationalcapital.gov.au and by going to Planning and Urban Design from where a 6.3MB pdf file of it and also a comment form can be downloaded. Copies are available from Regatta Point, and the NCA offices. The time for submissions has been extended from April 13 to May 4.
Luke Wensing, Treasurer WBGS Canberra Chapter