Belconnen District is more than 40 years old, but some parts were left green for later development. One of them is the new suburb of Lawson, which is situated beside Lake Ginninderra. Until now it has remained untouched. The suburb development started with Stage 1, opposite the University of Canberra (UC), and now has moved down Ginninderra Drive with the tender for Stage 2.
- The missing bridge
- 2004 Ten Year Master Plan for Trunk Cycling and Walking Path Infrastructure 2004-14
- 2007 Lawson South Structure Plan
- 2011 Lawson South Concept Plan
- Lawson South – planned but not built
- Lawson 2013-2018 timeline
- 2021 Failure to launch Stage 2
- 2022 Lawson Stage 2
- Lawson on the Active Travel Infrastructure Practitioner Tool (ATIPT)
- ACT Government maps from ACTmapi
- DHA suburb may never be built
The missing bridge
The would be benefits of a bridge: reduction of the distance from Solong Street, Lawson Stage 1 to Belconnen Town Centre from 5.5 km to 2.3 km. A bridge, however, is currently not planned for Stage 2.
|CBR C7 from Ginninderra/Aikman Drive||1.9||1.9|
|Lawson Stage 1 to Ginninderra/Aikman Drive||0.4||3.6|
2004 Ten Year Master Plan for Trunk Cycling and Walking Path Infrastructure
Almost 20 years ago – back in 2003 – a number of improvements were suggested for bike paths around Lake Ginninderra. To get from Lawson to Belconnen Town Centre without a new bridge in place was identified as a considerable detour. The following comment is from the Pedal Power ACT database in 2003, obtained from the 2004 Ten Year Master Plan for Trunk Cycling and Walking Path Infrastructure 2004-14.
The Pedal Power website contains a members’ comments database where cyclists can register suggestions for future Capital Works. The database was last updated in November 2003 and is grouped into six geographical areas namely Tuggeranong, Gungahlin, Woden/Weston, Belconnen, South Canberra and North Canberra.Ten Year Master Plan Trunk Cycling and Walking Path Infrastructure 2004-14, 25-26. Roads ACT, 2004. EPSDD FOI 22-27383.
Table 6: Pedal Power (Database) – Belconnen Section
Bike path along eastern bank of Lake Ginninderra, Lawson, connecting existing lakeside paths north of Baldwin Drive and South of Ginninderra Drive beneath existing bridges over lake.- should be built as part of Lawson developmentTen Year Master Plan Trunk Cycling and Walking Path Infrastructure 2004-14, 32. Roads ACT, 2004. EPSDD FOI 22-27383.
2010 Lawson South Structure Plan
Structure plans are different to concept plans, but it may not be obvious. Cycling is not mentioned much in the Territory Plan. Here are extracts from the South Lawson Structure Plan.
What is a structure plan?Planning and Development Act 2007, 71.
A structure plan sets out principles and policies for development of the future urban areas.
What is a concept plan?Planning and Development Act 2007, 71.
A concept plan—
(a) applies the principles and policies in the structure plan to future urban areas; and
(b) is a precinct code in the territory plan (see section 55 (3)) that guides the preparation and assessment of development in future urban areas to which the concept plan relates.
Lawson South Structure Plan
South Lawson Structure Plan, 5 November 2010, Territory Plan, accessed 16 June 2021
5.9 Transport and traffic management
22 Shared cycle/pedestrian paths will provide access to key features in Lawson south and connect to existing paths in surrounding areas including the University of Canberra and lake foreshore.South Lawson Structure Plan, 5 November 2010, Territory Plan, accessed 16 June 2021, 4.
2011 Lawson South Concept Plan
Lawson South Concept Plan is found in the Territory Plan. Cycling is not mentioned all that often in the Territory Plan. Here are the extracts for Lawson South.
There was great hope with the suburb of Lawson with its ideal location close to Lake Ginninderra, Belconnen and University of Canberra. Unfortunately, it all went pear shape. A Liberal MLA was sufficiently disturbed by this to comment at a recent Gungahlin Community Council meeting. The old naval station is contaminated and its future unclear. The substation beside the lake chased off all buyers for the surrounding land in a recent Suburban Land Agency sale. To move the power line easement will not come cheap.
The planned off-road bike paths are sketched on a map in the concept plan, but have not been built yet. There is no bridge across Lake Ginninderra and College Creek is currently marshland. The bike path along the northern edge along the boundary with the old naval station is missing, as is the bike path on the south side of Lake Ginninderra. The bike path along Ginninderra Drive was always there.
What is included in the Lawson South Concept Plan is hardly worth a mention.
Desired planning outcomesLawson South Concept Plan, 7 October 2011, Territory Plan, accessed 14 June 2021, 2.
The purpose of the development controls (…) is to:
f. encourage walking, cycling and the use of public transport
Lawson South – planned but not built
These bike paths have not been built in the last 10 years. The missing paths are mapped from figure 5 Movement network, Lawson South Concept Plan, 7 October 2011, Territory Plan. For this area, there is also a structure plan.
Lawson 2013-2018 timeline
Timeline dates have been gathered from the Suburban Land Agency (SLA) website for the period 1 November 2013 until the last entry on 28 June 2018. SLA has published nothing on Lawson since.
1 November 2013 Lawson Information Sessions
2 November 2013 Construction has Commenced in Lawson
4 December 2013 Lawson Stage 1C sold at Auction
11 December 2013 Medium Density Sites Sold in Lawson
25 February 2014 Medium Density Development Opportunity in Lawson
9 April 2014 Auction Results – Lawson – updated
2 May 2014 Medium Density Opportunity in Stage 1B Lawson
9 May 2014 Single Residential Blocks For Sale in Lawson
19 May 2014 Lawson Auction Information Sessions
4 June 2014 Lawson Stage 1A and 1B sold at Auction
22 September 2014 Medium Density Development Opportunities in Lawson
29 October 2014 Sold at Auction – Four Sites at Lawson
30 November 2015 Medium Density Development Opportunities – Final Sites in Stage 1 Lawson
11 March 2015 Sold at Auction – Final Sites in Stage 1 Lawson
27 May 2015 Construction starts on Lawson homes
22 June 2018 Lawson Two (Stage 2) Englobo Coming Soon
28 June 2018 Lawson Two – An Englobo Development Opportunity
2021 Failure to launch Stage 2
In the middle of Stage 2 is a substation, which was the demise of the attempt in 2021 to offer Stage 2 to the market. The substation, and associated high voltage power lines and towers, are an inherent risk for any developer. Many people do not want to live close to or in sight of power lines. While there are plenty of examples in the ACT where people do (Macgregor), the small size of Stage 1 estate leaves a large proportion of it reserved for the substation, power lines, and towers.
Lawson Two is now offering 43 hectares of spectacular land on the shores of Lake Ginninderra. Expressions of interest for the englobo site opened today and will close 23 August 2018. Suburban Land Agency CEO John Dietz said Lawson Two was a fantastic opportunity for developers looking for land close to the city, the University of Canberra and Calvary Hospital.Failed Offer: Lawson Two – An Englobo Development Opportunity, SLA, 28 June 2018
Stage 2 estate was back to the Suburban Land Agency (SLA) and subsequently discussed by the Standing Committee on Planning, Transport, and City Services (see Hansard). Moving Evoenergy’s infrastructure was not feasible. Instead, the 2021 Lawson Masterplan (see below) was dropped and the SLA decided to develop something new. The SLA has not published a new masterplan. A Request for Tender (RFT SLA1735) from 2022 provides the latest update (see next section).
The power infrastructure requires a development that is designed to be built around it. Considering recent trends, it seems likely that the SLA will follow a two stage designer/developer tender process that we know from ongoing developments in Coombs/Wright, Whitlam, and the Belconnen Circus Site. Due to the nature of the process, the designs are kept secrete until after the tender has been awarded.
2022 Lawson Stage 2
The tender for Lawson Stage 2 was released on 19 May 2022. Stage 2 covers a narrow strip of land between Stage 1 and Lake Ginninderra along Ginninderra Drive. Importantly, Stage 2 may be connected with a bridge to Stage 1 over College Creek – eventually. Those living in Stage 1 are currently cut off from the Belconnen Town Centre by the creek, and cyclists will have to ride the long way around.
The implications for cycling for Stage 2 are not good, as the tender includes limited cycle infrastructure. A few paths that may be suitable for cycling are shown on the landscape drawings (below). Stage 2 is planned as a dead end. We see, at best, only local paths with all Stage 2 development. The paths are not to be consistent with the Structure Plan and Concept Plan mentioned above. Possibly the worse omission, however, is the lack of any connection to Stage 1. The bridge over College Creek is not in scope of the tender RFT SLA1735 Lawson Stage 2.
Lawson on the Active Travel Infrastructure Practitioner Tool (ATIPT)
The Active Travel Infrastructure Practitioner Tool (ATIPT) is designed to show the planned corridors for Main Community Routes (BLUE lines) and Local Community Routes (PINK lines). Dot lines are planned and solid lines should have already been built (but in the reality they often have not been). Once again, EPSDD seems to simply ignore what is in the ATIPT with regard to estate plans such as this one.
ACT Government maps from ACTmapi
ACTmapi is the official ACT Government mapping tool, and as we see on the map below the blocks in the Territory Plan are out of date. The tender looks completely different to this. The Territory Plan zoning view of ACTmapi shows the area of Stage 1 as RZ4 – Medium Density Residential Zone – and RZ5. An example of the Inner North showing RZ4 is shown below from the Territory Plan RZ4 code.
DHA suburb may never be built
The large Defence Housing Australia (DHA) area lies to the north of Lawson Stage 1 and Stage 2, between Lake Ginninderra and Baldwin Drive. The ACT Conservation Council is now running a campaign to “Save Lawson Grasslands“.
Defence Housing Australia (DHA) is proposing to build approximately 570 houses on this site. In 2013 initial development approvals were successful but the environmental controls hindered DHAs plans. Gazetted as National Land, for the development to proceed DHA must gain Federal approvals from the National Capital Authority and the Federal Environment Department.“Save Lawson Grasslands“, ACT Conservation Council, accessed 6 June 2022.
3 grassland reserves are just a short distance away – Mulanggari Grasslands Nature Reserve, Gungaderra Grassland Nature Reserve, Crace Grassland Nature Reserve – and dominate the south Gungahlin landscape. Lawson is, however, in an ideal location for urban development, with close proximity to Lake Ginninderra, UC, and Belconnen Town Centre. Proximity to the town centre and public transport is a major factor in preventing urban sprawl, and the DHA site has both.