Lakeside pool for City to Lake project seems to have been axed

Plans for a lakeside pool in the government’s much-promoted City to the Lake precinct appear to have been abandoned, and the City Renewal Authority’s board will “revisit” plans for the entire project.

While a previous proposal for an Olympic-sized swimming pool and diving pool was previously shelved, a second proposal for a recreational pool now also appears to have been axed.

It is the latest in a string of proposals for the precinct between the city and Lake Burley-Griffin to have been axed or significantly downgraded, including a sports stadium and convention centre.

During a committee hearing on Monday, Opposition deputy leader Nicole Lawder asked authority chief executive Malcolm Snow whether the plans still included the pool. He said the current Civic pool was “within the area spatially that government has asked us to come forward with some clear revitalisation strategies” for.

Ms Lawder asked about some $400,000 allocated in this year’s budget for a feasibility study for the proposed pool to be completed by June next year, which Mr Snow referred to the authority’s David Hughes.

Mr Hughes said funding had, after the break-up of the Land Development Agency, been transferred to the planning directorate, and was now in the process of being transferred to the authority, for the work to be commissioned in 2018-19.

But he said the funding was to assess “what’s needed and where it should be located”, taking into account the Australian National University’s plans for a pool in Civic, as well as government plans for a potential diving pool at Stromlo sports centre.

“It’s to look at that more broadly in the context of what’s being done more broadly and what’s appropriate for the precinct,” Mr Hughes said.

Neither the government’s official statement of expectations to the authority, nor the authority’s response, mentions explicitly developing a pool as previously publicised, with some other documents instead referring to a “water play area” in “future stages” beyond stage two of the project.

The first stage of the precinct is already underway, including a 150-metre boardwalk, footpaths and the proposed Henry Rolland Park on the West Basin peninsula and it is expected to be complete early next year.

While 6.5 hectares of mixed-use developments and up to four hectares of “public realm” areas remain on the agenda, the authority’s board is reviewing stage two and future plans for the precinct.

Mr Snow said a Transport Canberra and City Services working group was considering the implications of the second stage of the light rail project and the “major physical and psychological” barrier Parkes Way represented.

But he said the authority’s board had “expressed the desire to re-examine some of the basic assumptions behind the West Basin” and whether the government could actually receive the expected financial returns from the project.

Asked by committee chairman Liberal Jeremy Hanson if the government had looked at the plan and said “no we’re not doing that, let’s start again”, Mr Snow said that was not the case.

“I think my board quite appropriately said they would like to be well-briefed and understand all of the assumptions that were built into the original City to the Lake project,” he said.

Mr Snow said issues including how light rail might traverse over Parkes Way, would “directly impact” on planning for the precinct and that “it would be inappropriate to pursue the current master plan”, given light rail had been announced since it was drawn up.

“We need to understand those technical parameters, if as a result of that work there is an impact upon the planning assumptions, [then] quite appropriately we need to revisit the master plan,” he said.