Community consultation slammed

RESIDENTS in Chapman are in arms over a new government housing development that is proposed for their suburb. The ACT Government has recommended, and the Federal. Government approved, a site in Chapman for the development of supportive housing, which will be used for government housing tenants. And while residents do have concerns about the site being suitable for such a development given that it has a primary school, preschool. play group, and a church in immediate proximity, the biggest issue is the lack of consultation from the government.

“There seems to have been a great stampede to get this development underway, and it is the community that has been trampled” local resident and deputy chairman of the Weston Creek Community Council, Tom Anderson, said

The first local residents knew about the proposed development, which is located on a vacant block of land on Streeton Drive, was a letter sent to the Weston Creek Community Council website at the start of the month, and a public meeting was arranged for the following week.

Chairman of the Weston Creek Community Council, Tim Dalton, said that at this public meeting, residents were not consult on the project, rather told by representatives of the Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services (DHCS) what was going to happen irrespective of any concerns and comments of the public.  “The reality is the government has known about this for a while as they have employed architects and surveyors and have had a site visit”, Mr Dalton said.

“We thought they could have involved the community; it is grossly unfair that they are not speaking to us.

“People in Chapman aren’t against development, they would just like to have a say on the style and quantity of it.

“It’s when you bypass consultation that the residents become disgruntled”.

“At the last election, the government made a big deal about being more open with the community, however, it seems one of their departments has fallen back into their old habits”.

At the next meeting, residents also expressed concern when representatives of DHCS could not confirm that the housing would be exclusively for elderly people, and that the Chapman residents may not be eligible to take up any of the accommodation.

As spokesperson for DHCS defended the consultation process for the development.

“Meetings were advertised, local residents letterboxed, community councils talked to and will be visited.

“The development application process will provide another avenue for comment”.

The spokesperson assured the facility would be used for supported accommodation only, and that he expected number of existing Chapman tenants to take up the offer of accommodation.

He said this and other supported aged accommodation set to be developed was to cater for Canberra’s ageing population, as there was in excess of 3,000 public housing tenants that are 65 years or older.

“The intention is to encourage public housing tenants to move from their existing, larger homes into contemporary two bedroom adaptable homes that are designed to allow them to ’age in place’,”  he said.

“This will allow larger properties to be freed up for families on the public housing waiting list.”

by Peter Reynolds – The Southside Chronicle Wednesday 29 September 2009

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