What makes you come to Belconnen Town Centre? What would make you come to the Belconnen Town Centre more often (or at all)? What would make you spend more time in it?
These are critical questions, and this is your opportunity to influence the answers – and, in turn, the future of the Belconnen Town Centre.
All the Town Centres in the ACT – as well as a few other distinct areas – have master plans. These are high level documents which set out an area’s character and quality, and how it can develop into the future (you can read more about master plans here). In 2015, the Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan will be updated. Consultation has begun in earnest.
The thing about consultation is that people need to know that the consultation is happening, and that their views will be taken seriously. Often consultation is on something which has already been developed or fully worked up, which can give the sense that the consultation is a ticking the box exercise rather than views being taken seriously. Fortunately in this case, the three months of November, December and January is the ACT Government’s effort to gather as many views from people interested in the Town Centre as possible. There’s no plan to comment on, just a few documents with some key considerations to help guide your thinking. A 12 week consultation (the initial consultation on Woden Town Centre’s Master Plan was six weeks) is important – it’s enough time ensure the community knows it’s happening, and gives the opportunity for the community to really think through the issues and present their views.
One of the common criticisms of master plans is they’re not binding. That they’re a guide. They outline how an area can develop, not how it will.
This is probably not going to change any time soon. But I believe in the power of the people:
– the more people who make their views known, the more these views can’t be ignored
– the more that views can’t be ignored, the more they’re going to be reflected in the master plan
– a master plan which genuinely reflects community views benefits from the community having a sense of ownership in it
– the more the community feels they own it, the greater the weight it will have, and the more attention it will be paid.
And that is why the Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan matters to you. The Town Centre has some great amenities – an excellent Arts Centre, the Belconnen Community Services and its Centre, Lake Ginninderra, the library, wonderful restaurants, a new bus interchange, live music venues and, yes, Westfield – but it could have more.** And, these amenities could definitely be better connected. I strongly think networks of pedestrian and cycle paths could be improved. Do you agree? Tell them. There’s a real opportunity to have a street cafe culture – restaurants like Pho Hub, Lonsdale Street Roasters and Chatterbox have been a great start, as well as the Westfield restaurants on Lathlain Street – so where do we want to see more of it? If you’ve got ideas, make them known.
What would you like to see along the lake front, particularly at Emu Bank? Do you want more restaurants that face the lake? If so, tell them. Are there places where you regularly walk where there isn’t a proper path? Or there’s a path but people are using a shortcut? Identify it. What could improve the trade services area and ensure it remains viable? Submit your ideas. And just how do you make your ideas known?
- You can meet the planners at Westfield Belconnen between 10am and 2pm at the bus waiting area on Saturday (22 November)
- You can also meet the planners at the Belconnen Markets between 10am and 2pm on Saturday, 29 November
- You can view a poster display at Belconnen Library until 30 January (or check it out here), and one at Westfield until this Saturday
- You can come along to a design workshop at the Belconnen Arts Centre on Thursday, 4 December from 6pm. You have to RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be there!
- You can e-mail your submission to email@example.com
- You can get in touch with the Belconnen Community Council
- And of course I’m always happy to talk about it in detail!
AND, if you’d like to read more in the meantime
– I first wrote a post on this back in February
– The Belconnen Community Council conducted a survey earlier this year; this report summarises the views of over 200 respondents.
– Her Canberra published a lovely interview with me about the report
– Some historical resources are available here
Decisions are made by those who show up – or in this case, make their views known. If there’s something you want to see in the Town Centre, or want to see changed, you have to get involved now.
* I am currently serving as the Chair of the Belconnen Community Council. The views above are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Council or the Committee.
** Here’s one such idea: