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Self-Storage Proposal for Australia's Red Hill Nature Reserve Criticized as 'Abhorrent'

Australia-based real estate developer Hindmarsh intends to build a 20,500-square-meter self-storage facility near the Red Hill Nature Reserve in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), but the project is vehemently opposed by neighboring residents and environmentalists who have called it “abhorrent.” The proposal would require the legislative assembly to approve a lease variation allowing a building footprint larger than 500 square meters, according to the source.

The Red Hill reserve, a 298-hectare area surrounded by suburbs, is part of the traditional home of the Ngunnawal aboriginal people. It protects “many threatened, rare or uncommon species of plants and animals, especially regionally declining woodland birds,” according to the ACT website. The proposed self-storage site, known as Section 66, is in an area that could be contaminated from remnants of toxic dumping, the source reported.

"[This is] a proposal that will impact Red Hill reserve, build on areas in which waste has been dumped and which is immediately downslope of large toxic, unstable and permeable legacy rubbish dumps, and is at a scale that is abhorrent to the local community," said Michael Mulvaney, conservation officer or the Red Hill Regenerators community group. "Hindmarsh are treating both the legislative assembly and the local community with contempt."

Mulvaney indicated the group would be less opposed to a storage structure that fit within the 500-square-meter requirement. “The scale of the proposal is totally out of keeping with the nature of the site, the aesthetics of the surrounding open space and nature reserve, and the high conservation values that exist on parts of the site and surrounding land,” he told the source.

Last year, Hindmarsh proposed a residential development for the land. Though the company hasn’t backed away from that project, it would require a zoning change, whereas the site is already part of a service zone, which allows self-storage, according to the source.

The new proposal was criticized by assembly member Caroline Le Couteur as a possible maneuver by Hindmarsh to force residents to choose between a multi-story storage structure and the residential plan, which would have less visual impact on the landscape.

The developer contends the storage project would have little impact to the reserve. “The concept demonstrates that a self-storage facility can be accommodated on the site with adequate car parking, access, circulation and with minimal impacts to the surrounding area,” Hindmarsh officials wrote in their proposal.

In February, Purdon Planning, an urban-planning consulting firm that works with government and private entities, issued a report on behalf of Hindmarsh to ACT officials indicating the self-storage project would have minimal visual and environmental impact. “Increasing the gross floor area to allow development of the site for [storage] will improve the visual amenity of the sites and will not have any negative impact on adjacent residents,” Purdon officials wrote. “There are no endangered ecological communities on the site, and removal of vegetation is negligible due to the disturbed nature of the site at present.”

Mulvaney countered the notion that the site is void of endangered inhabitants, indicating it’s home to bats and sugar gliders, and is an important habitat for gang-gang cockatoos.

Public comment on the lease-variation proposal closes on May 18.

Hindmarsh is a family-owned company. It specializes in “complex” construction projects and property development. In its 38 years, the firm has completed more than $4 billion in construction work, including 5,000 residential and 240 retirement units, according to the company website.

WA Today, Contentious Red Hill Land Could Become Massive Storage Facility

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