Cooleman Court Petition speech to Legislative Assembly

Australian Greens

I am pleased to be able to support 1110 of my constituents who signed this petition but appalled that the government is planning to replace a much loved piece of green space with a car park.

The government is planning that grass space next to Cooleman court will be replaced with asphalt to mke a car park. This will lead to a hotter local environment, less tree canopy cover and less amenity. In particular for the immediate neighbours at the townhouse complex at 8 Watling place there will be on-going light pollution from lights over the car park and noise pollution from construction and then operation of the unneeded car park.

I say unneeded because an FOI put in by the neighbours found that parking surveys showed spare car spaces near Cooleman court at all times of the day. Even at peak time on a late Saturday morning in 2018 almost 200 spaces were free. And more parking was added to the Cooleman Court in 2019.

Residents have reported an almost total lack of enforcement of parking time restrictions. Enforcing parking restrictions is a cheap, possibly even profitable, way of better using parking spaces.

In fact there is reason to believe that parking demand in Cooleman court might be going down, not up. Shops are closing there, A few months ago the local branch of the Commonwealth Bank, a few weeks ago, Beyond Q and next year the local target will close.

Cooleman court was of course designed to be the centre for Weston, and its car parking is adequate for that. The real issue is lack of shops in Molonglo. That is a serious planning failure by the ACT government but the solution to that failure is not more car parks in Cooleman court, its decent community facilities and shops in Molonglo for Molonglo.

The other reason for more parking demand in Cooleman court is that the bus service there has improved, and people are using it as a park and ride. Of course I’m really pleased people are using the buses, but the government needs to tell them about the park and ride by the RSPCA where their cars would be welcome.

The neighbours at 8 Watling Place have put in a submission to ACTPLA pointing out numerous planning problems with the car park proposal.

As they say, the zoning is such that car parking can only legally be temporary. So why is the government spending $616,029.5 which is the works budget or up to $1.22m as suggested in the FOI, for a temporary car park? And if the car park is temporary, why was the money for its rehabilitation not budgeted at the same time as its construction? Will it, as the FOI shows the government is considering, become permanent?

The car park proposal in inconsistent with our climate change and transport strategies which both support active transport, not increased car usage.

The proposal is also inconsistent with Cooleman Court Master Plan. The master plan calls for:

  • Reduced reliance on private vehicles.
  • Creating opportunities for social interactions.
  • Reduced the heat island effect in urban areas.
  • Improved microclimate through landscape design.

The development of the car park will: increase reliance on private vehicles; negatively impact opportunities for social interactions, as pedestrians, cyclists and other users of the path are discouraged from using it; increase the heat island effect and negatively impact the microclimate.

Very concerningly I have been told about intimidatory tactics by the government in consultation with neighbours. I have been told that residents were told the car park would definitely happen and that the alternative is 3 storey apartments, so they better accept the car park. .

I hope government will listen to the community and give up on this unwanted car park.

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