Listening to those with the least: ACTCOSS calls for a new Social Planning Unit in ACT Planning System Review

16 June 2022

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has today made a submission to the ACT Planning System Review and Reform Project calling for a system that better reflects the needs of vulnerable people.

ACTCOSS Deputy CEO, Adam Poulter said: “We welcome the draft planning legislation and the ‘Good Planning Principles’ it contains. While the principles include a commitment to consult with communities, the draft legislation lacks detail on how this will happen.

“We urge the Government to commit to consulting with and prioritising the needs of those experiencing homelessness, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people, people with disabilities, young people and other people experiencing disadvantage.

“It is ironic that our planning debates often completely miss those who are most affected by planning decisions, leaving them least engaged in creating our city. Canberrans with disadvantage are ‘canaries in the coalmine’ when we get planning, design, transport and city integration wrong, and we should call on their knowledge to forge a better city.

“People without cars know when transport does not link up. Young people can tell us when we don’t have parks or spaces to gather. Community groups know when they cannot find venues to meet or hold events. Renters know when affordable housing is built in places with no local commerce or infrastructure. Older people, parents and people with disability know when locations are inaccessible.

“People who survive in substandard housing or live on our streets can certainly tell us when our public places are hostile to them or offer no free sheltered spaces which provide refuge for people during heatwaves, storms and other weather events.

“We have seen too many examples of development failures: new areas like Gungahlin developed without community hubs or public transport routes that leave people with a kilometre to walk home.

“Getting it right requires a dedicated, resourced Social Planning Unit within the ACT Government that leads on inclusive planning, gathers intelligence on the needs of disadvantaged people and ensures that the planning system delivers better outcomes for communities, development, the environment and people across Canberra.

“A new planning system must be geared to increase affordable housing supply across Canberra to meet the shortfall of 3,100 social housing dwellings and 2,400 affordable rentals. We must also ensure universal design standards are met and exceeded for people with disability and reduced mobility.

“We need to ensure planning decisions respond to the people who live here. We call for community needs analyses of transport, community facilities and community development.

‘”We know that development that addresses the needs of those with the least will deliver the best outcomes for all in our society,” Mr Poulter concluded.

Find the ACTCOSS submission to the ACT Planning Review here.

ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations. Follow us @ACTCOSS on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

For more information or comment, please contact

Mr Adam Poulter, Deputy CEO, ACTCOSS, on 0422 036 979 or 02 6202 7200

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