Ian Shih | 2022 July
Since early 2016, the government has made many large-scale developments for the new Watson area because of housing needs. In recent years, due to the soaring population, the local infrastructure has faced the pressure of overpopulation, leading to more inconvenience and loss of quality of life becoming more and more obvious.
In a community-prepared Watson development report, it is pointed out that childcare and primary schools in the area are running out of capacity. People drive quite far to go to work, but also have to drop kids off at school, resulting in an average of two cars per family. However, because of the small homes and little car park/garage space, cars can only be parked out on the side of the road, causing street chaos. New Watson also doesn’t have a community centre of its own. These are just a few issues pointed out by residents in every community consultation that was conducted over the years.
Section 76 is one of Watson’s last two large open spaces. At the beginning of 2016, the government originally hoped to add 400-500 houses to the block 76/74 area to meet the housing demand of Canberra. The development plan of block 76 also planned to cut down all the native trees on the block to accommodate building development and traffic.
These plans were heavily protested by residents in Watson, so the large number of houses originally planned was reduced to 150-200 houses and the government promised to set aside 1 hectare dedicated to a neighbourhood park area. In 2022, it was also announced that all existing trees were to remain on site.
Under Living Streets Association and working closely with key organisations in Watson, the Future Regenerative Community Living Masterplan has been continuously developing. We have conducted countless community consultations to bring forward the current planning issues to residents and heard different voices of people living in Watson.
Despite our original focus being housing types, regenerative buildings, and affordable living, we found that the biggest and most common need that is not being met is the lack of community infrastructures such as community gathering spaces/centres, kindergartens, schools, and other basic demands of the growing population.
Core Regenerative Community Design Concepts
The establishment of community centres is undoubtedly the most important to residents, so the design direction was changed to focus on livability and connectivity, community living, and shared resources.
The 15-minute city is where the community centre is the core of residents’ lives. If our community can meet the needs of life within walking distance, we will no longer rely on the mobile mode of cars or the connection of urban roads. Our cities need to have accessibility to provide access to services and facilities and to serve a diverse population including the needs of people with disabilities or disadvantaged groups. Access to employment, education and basic services is key to people’s well-being, opportunity and social inclusion. We will design to provide services and facilities to support the community with choices in housing, transportation, employment and recreation.
A strong local community centre is essential for a strong, connected, and safe community. Supporting residents through a mix of uses, the centres can serve as destinations and activity centres that can adapt to the passage of time.