National Capital Plan Review

The National Capital Authority is undertaking a planning reform process to update the National Capital Plan. The Plan has not been holistically reviewed since it came into effect in 1990.

The National Capital Plan is the overarching legal instrument giving effect to the Commonwealth's interests and intentions for planning, designing and developing Canberra and the Territory as the National Capital.

The NCA prepares and administers the Plan on behalf of the Commonwealth.

Process so far

Exposure Draft

In June 2015, the NCA released an Exposure Draft of the Plan for community consultation. The Exposure Draft enabled discussions with stakeholders outside statutory processes. The NCA sought to understand the public’s views before starting the statutory process to amend the Plan.

The Exposure Draft of the Plan proposed key changes relating to:

  • the structure and format of the document
  • metropolitan planning (matters such as urban form, land use, transport and infrastructure)
  • areas identified as having special characteristics of the National Capital (Designated Areas)
  • areas where there is a high level of Commonwealth interest but where the detailed planning role is shared between the National Capital Authority and ACT Government (Special Requirements).

Key issues raised during community consultation on the Exposure Draft related to:

  • broad policy matters such as the expression of national interest and national significance, changes to the urban areas of Canberra and the identification of potential future urban areas, and heritage
  • the format and structure of the document
  • changes to the planning arrangements between the NCA and ACT Government, including the extent of Special Requirements and Designated Areas
  • specific policy matters such as those relating to diplomatic missions, Lake Burley Griffin, and building heights.

Public feedback on the Exposure Draft of the Plan informed a number of changes to the revised Plan as proposed by Draft Amendment 86. Key changes in response to public comment related to land use, the General Policy Plan – Metropolitan Canberra, additional governance arrangements for certifying land use proposals, and reinstatement of Special Requirements for Haig and Telopea Parks.

A full description of the issues and NCA response to these is available in the Exposure Draft consultation report  

Draft Amendment 86

On 1 October 2015, the NCA release Draft Amendment 86 for community consultation. In accordance with the NCA’s ‘Commitment to Community Engagement (February 2015)’ the period for public comment ran for 30 business days, concluding on 13 November 2015.

On 5 May 2016, the Minister for Major Projects, Territories and Local Government, the Hon. Paul Fletcher MP approved Amendment 86 to the National Capital Plan.

Information related to Amendment 86 as approved by the Minister is available here 

What's next?

The NCA will shortly commence the next stage of the Plan review, focussing on detailed provisions of the Plan. This page will be updated as work progresses.

To register your interest in keeping up to date with the National Capital Plan review project please email or by calling 02 6271 2888.

Application for Development Approval

Works Approval under the Australian Capital Territory (Planning and Land Management) Act 1988.


Design Review Panel - Terms of Reference

1. Purpose

The National Capital Authority Design Review Panel (DRP) has been established to provide independent expert design guidance on major projects within Designated Areas in the Australian Capital Territory.

The genesis of the DRP is the importance of high quality architectural, urban and landscape design, and support for the value it adds to the city and the community.

2. Scope

The design review panel will initially be established for 12 months, followed by a review of its value and scope.

The DRP's immediate focus will be on the proposal for West Basin and surrounds. Meetings will be tied to the West Basin Estate Development Plan milestones.

The panel's role will evolve into an integral part of the NCA's development approval process. It will provide advice on development projects of significance to the National Capital and sites will be selected by the NCA. Development applications may also be referred to the panel.

The panel will consider all scales of development from master plans, major infrastructure, individual buildings, landscapes and public spaces.

3. Panel Membership

Panel membership will be at the invitation of the NCA. In addition a panellist will be nominated by the ACT Government.

The panel will consist of five people including a Chair. The Chair and the ACT Government representative will be constant attendees of the panel, while the remaining three positions will be rotated.

Panel members will be chosen to provide a balanced representation of appropriate skills and experience. From time to time additional panel members may be invited to provide specific technical expertise relevant to a project.

Panel members will be invited to attend the DRP for 12 months initially but may be re-appointed for a further 12 months term.

4. Process/Meetings

The Panel will meet approximately every 6 weeks. Panel members will be provided with information on the project and project elements that will be presented at each meeting.

The meeting process will consist of a short presentation, review by individual panel members, and a chaired discussion where questions may be directed to the designers, and concluded with a summary by the Chair. Each meeting will be followed up by a short and succinct structured report which identifies areas where the project is satisfactory and areas that need to be improved.

The panels design report would be made public in line with the NCA's public consultation commitment.

5. Conflicts and Confidentiality

Panel members will be expected to declare any interests in the proposals – including financial, commercial, professional or familial.

If the interests are considered a conflict the panel member will be excluded from the panel for that project and the design review meeting.

In the event of a panel member presenting their own proposal to the Panel, they will not play a role as a panel member for that meeting.

The panel meetings will be confidential, but summary reports may be the subject to freedom of information request.

6. Policy

The DRP will be made aware and have regard to policies relevant to the subject site.

The DRP members will be chosen for their exposure to and demonstration of best practice in high quality design and planning and a level of regard for principles and policies around good design will be assumed.

The primary policy document relevant to sites is the National Capital Plan, which is currently being reviewed.

In addition the panel should have regard to the principles of good places in the Creating Places for People – an urban design protocol for Australian Cities.

7. Status of the advice

The DRP will not supersede the existing works approval process but its advice will provide direction on the acceptability of a proposal reviewed by the panel.

8. Design Review Resources

Resources on good design principles and the value of design review processes may also be found through the links below, which include addresses of other Australian Government Architect sites:

Victorian Government Architect and links:

West Basin Precinct Guidelines


West Basin is centrally located, close to national attractions with great potential for rejuvenation as a high quality, urban, lakeside precinct.

The West Basin precinct is within Designated Areas defined in the National Capital Plan. Development proposals for this site will be subject to National Capital Authority (NCA) works approval. Given the site's scale and positional importance and recent development plans under the City to the Lake proposal, it is timely that the NCA provides guidance on the preferred character.

Planning policy requirements for the precinct are provided in the National Capital Plan (the Plan). These guidelines are supplementary to the Plan, providing greater direction on the preferred character and parameters for the design of the precinct. They also provide guidance about the issues the NCA is likely to take into account when considering works approvals.

The guidelines are intended to ensure a high quality of design and development on the lake's edge is realised. A range of people including land managers, developers, government and designers, will use these guidelines as benchmarks for the intended qualities of West Basin.

While the Plan envisages new development within West Basin, the precinct is an integral part of the national capital and accordingly any development must sensitively re-engage with the surrounding city while distilling a distinctive local character. The NCA is seeking to promote West Basin as a place that has:

  • A continuous public pathway and waterfront promenade
  • Distinctive contemporary architecture and design excellence
  • A vibrant and diverse community
  • Meaningful connection with surrounding precincts
  • A high quality public realm and landscape.

The document is organised as follows:

  • Vision and Place Principles – Outlines the urban design intent and overall features of West Basin
  • Site Context – Describes the important existing features of the site and surrounds and relevant planning policies
  • Design Guidelines – The guidance is organised under themes and includes the following information:
  • Objective – Overall design objective(s) relevant to each theme
  • Policy – Summary of relevant sections of the National Capital Plan
  • Guidelines – Specific requirements for the design of the precinct supported by images and plans.


The NCA will ensure West Basin is planned, designed and developed as a distinctive, urban waterfront precinct that embodies the best of contemporary Canberra, builds on its history and incorporates spaces and activities that ensure its ongoing success.

West Basin will have the following urban design features:

  1. A generous waterfront parkland activated by a complementary mix of uses, activities and events
  2. An integrated, permeable network of well-designed public spaces, paths and streets that support vibrant public life and high connectivity
  3. Buildings and structures of high architectural quality and environmental performance that unifies the different precincts with the City Centre

Place Principles

West Basin will be a place that is:


  • Engage with the site's context, and embody the special features, history and memory of the site.


  • Design public spaces and streets that encourage and support walking, cycling and public transport over cars.
  • Make a continuous public pathway along the waterfront and connect to a wider network of paths and streets.


  • Define a mixture of land uses, building types, spaces and facilities that will support a vibrant community.
  • Encourage a density of residents, workers and visitors that will help ensure public spaces are popular across the day and evening.
  • Design West Basin as a place with a wide range of social and community facilities for all ages and mobility.

High quality

  • Design buildings and spaces that have a distinctive character and environmental and design excellence.

Green and urban

  • Define a rich variety of high quality public spaces and landscapes that are attractive and that support a wide range of activities and public events.
  • The vision and ‘place principles' outlined above define the intended character of West Basin.

Site Context

Site Location and Features

The West Basin precinct is centrally located in Canberra, and visually prominent from Commonwealth Avenue and across Lake Burley Griffin. Despite this central location it is un-developed.

The site has few buildings located on it. Currently there is a bike shed and associated small business and a small pier and boating facility. Much of the eastern edge is dominated by at grade asphalt car parks, surrounded by coppiced logs. There are no heritage or design language cues from the buildings or structures on the site.

The topography slopes gently down to the water's edge for most of the site, but with steeper sections around the western foreshore adjacent to the National Museum of Australia.

A pathway exists around the lake extending from under Commonwealth Avenue Bridge and connects to a tunnel under the Australian National University (ANU). This pathway splits on the western edge, and traverses up the slope to connect with Lawson Crescent and the National Museum beyond. There are other informal pathways across the grassland, which represent dominant movement patterns. There are a collection of trees along the water's edge that includes a variety of species, giving the site an informal landscape character.

Map 1: West Basin precinct and its proximity to surrounding precincts - This diagram shows a map of the west basin prencinct and surrounds, including Acton Peninsula and the Australian national University.

Map 1: West Basin precinct and its proximity to surrounding precincts

  • West Basin Precinct
  • West Basin Precinct

West Basin Precinct

The West Basin precinct is defined in the National Capital Plan. The extent of the precinct is illustrated in the adjacent image. The West Basin precinct includes the areas of the lake that would be reclaimed in development of this area. The precinct also includes recently developed areas of New Acton. While this document includes reference to this area, the focus of the guidelines is on the undeveloped sections of the West Basin precinct south of Parkes Way.

Surrounding Precincts

Diverse educational, civic, entertainment and historic precincts surround West Basin. To the north of the undeveloped sections of the precinct is New Acton - an intensive, mixed use, creative urban hub bounded by Edinburgh Avenue and London Circuit; to the west is Acton Peninsula with its important land uses and iconic buildings including the ANU, The National Museum of Australia, The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), and further beyond to West Lake. To the east of the site is Commonwealth Avenue, flanked by Commonwealth Park and R.G. Menzies Walk which ultimately connects the site to Kings Avenue via the public pathway; to the south is Lake Burley Griffin and views to buildings in the Parliamentary Zone, including to Parliament House.

Roadways in and around West Basin create major barriers to access, and isolate it from its surroundings. Commonwealth Avenue to the East is an important historical and ceremonial route that forms an edge and frontage for West Basin. Parkes Way severs the site from the surrounding areas to the north; plans to bridge this road would help re-connect areas, but are infrastructure and cost intensive.

The public space is largely dominated by car parks, with the remainder simply configured parkland. Despite having significant appeal as a central lakeside location with beautiful views, the full potential of the public realm has not been realised.

Historical view lines and vistas help define the significance of the site within the layout of the city. Walter Burley Griffin defined the alignment of the edge of the lake in the original layout for Canberra – however; the current lake alignment is inconsistent with the original plan. Part of the site is located on the Water Axis, which is part of the historic geometry of the layout of Canberra. Future development on the site will be visible from nodal points including City Hill, Commonwealth Avenue, and developed areas of New Acton and Yarralumla.

Development of West Basin presents an opportunity to connect the surrounding precincts. It also provides an opportunity to re-frame this part of the city as a high quality public space and an attractive civic destination.

The distinctive design character of West Basin must harness the valued site specific features identified above, including the lakeside location, aspect from surrounding vantage points and connection to surrounding institutions and precincts.

Planning Policy

National Capital Plan

The National Capital Plan (the Plan) is the primary policy that guides the character of development at West Basin. The sections of the Plan that set out the urban design and planning requirements for West Basin are:

  • The West Basin Precinct is identified in the Plan as Figure 11 Central National Area West Basin. This includes areas north and south of Parkes Way and is shown in the precinct plan in this document
  • Section 1.4 West Basin – provides background, principles, polices and permitted land uses for the precinct
  • Land Use Policies – describes permitted land uses for specific sites within the West Basin Precinct. These areas are identified as Land Use A,
  • Land Use B and Land Use C and Open Space/Waterfront Promenade
  • Appendix T.9 –West Basin –provides detailed design conditions for development within the West Basin precinct.

These West Basin Precinct Guidelines are supplementary to the Plan.

Urban Design Protocol

The Urban Design Protocol seeks to ‘create productive sustainable and liveable places for people through leadership and the integration of urban design excellence'. The urban design protocol provides a framework that sets out the principles of good contemporary urban places. The NCA and the ACT Government are ‘champions' of the protocol.

The protocol also includes a road user hierarchy, which prioritises designing for sustainable transport modes over that of cars.
The values expressed in the protocol underpin best practice in urban design, and help guide the recommendations for West Basin.

Design Review

All proposals will be subject to consideration by an independent design review panel. The panel's role is to offer impartial comment to inform the NCA's consideration of design proposals. The design review panel will offer objective advice based on professional judgement and an understanding of the principles of good design. The design review panel must endorse the development proposal prior to works approval by the NCA.

Proponents will be required to demonstrate to the NCA how issues raised in the design review process have been addressed.

Diagram 1: Principles of good urban places - This venn diagram shows the three principles of good urban places - productive, sustainable and livable.

Diagram 1: Principles of good urban places

Diagram 2: Road user hierarchy - This diagram shows the road user hierarchy. In order of greatest importance to least; pedestrians, cyclists, public transport and private vehicles.

Diagram 2: Road user hierarchy

The Guidelines

West Basin will become a vibrant waterfront precinct. The development will protect the public amenity of the lakefront, and extend its recreational role. West Basin will be a place for people to visit, live, work and play in the centre of Canberra. Contemporary architecture and high quality public space design will shape a distinctive precinct character.

The development layout will retain and improve the connection with Central Basin, and will create a new network of paths to Lake Burley Griffin and the surrounding area. This will integrate West Basin with Civic, the ANU, major institutions and surrounding parkland. Development of this area will also realise features of the original plan for Canberra.

These guidelines are not intended to be a comprehensive manual on how to design a good place. Rather they reinforce the distinctive features that exist in the site and surrounds, and the spatial qualities necessary to make West Basin an attractive destination, and integrate it with the surrounding city form.

The natural features, surrounding institutions and location of the site are excellent starting points to design and build a distinctive, high quality waterfront precinct. The calibre of design proposals should reflect this opportunity. Accordingly, proposals for buildings and public spaces will be subject to the independent, expert design review as part of the Works Approval process.

The West Basin precinct will be integrated, distinctive, green and vibrant.


The development pathway and sequencing will evolve as further investigation into feasibility and constraints is undertaken. Significant work is being undertaken concurrently to assess how West Basin may be better connected to the city by bridging Parkes Way. If implemented this will dramatically change the perception of this precinct and its role in the city.

What is essential in the development process is that the design and construction of a continuous public pathway and waterfront promenade is the first priority. This will ensure that public access to the foreshore is maintained, the scene is set for a distinctive place with excellent design and that West Basin improves in its amenity and productive use from the outset of the development process. The waterfront must be designed and built to a very high standard as it will unify West Basin and to a large degree define its identity.

Themes and Objectives

The guidelines are organised under the following themes:

  • Heritage and Site Context
  • Integrated Structure and Movement
  • Land Use and Character
  • Built Form
  • Public Space and Landscape.

The following objectives describe the desirable outcomes for the design of the West Basin precinct in relation to each theme.

  1. Reflect the site's features, history and memory
  2. Integrate West Basin with the city and maintain a continuous public pathway on the waterfront
  3. Support a diverse and vibrant community
  4. Define a distinctive built character and design excellence
  5. Design high quality, public spaces and landscape.

Proposals will be assessed against these and the guidelines that support them below. Any application for Works Approval for West Basin must demonstrate how the proposal addresses these objectives and guidelines.

Theme 1 - Heritage & Site Context


Reflect the site's features, history and memory.


The National Capital Plan provides policy on:

  • Water sensitive urban design (WSUD) and protection of the lake water quality.
  • Land reclamation of sections of the lake.
  • Creation of a land bridge across Parkes Way.
  • Access to local heritage places.


This section highlights those valued features in the site and its context that will help define a unique local character.

The following guidelines supplement the policy above.

Map 2: Indicative lake reclamation - This diagram indicates the areas of Lake Burley Griffin within West Basin that will be reclaimed.

Map 2: Indicative lake reclamation

  • Reclaimed Lake Edge
  • 1918 Plan Lake Edge

Lake edge reclamation

  • Reclaim the shape and alignment of the lake edge in accordance with the 1918 plan as shown in the National Capital Plan. Survey and accurately plot the alignment of the water axis and the 1918 lake edge for confirmation by the NCA. The reclamation area may include bonafide land as well as decked sections. See the lake reclamation diagram adjacent.
  • The balance of decked sections to bonafide land will be dependent on meeting accessibility provisions and must be solid, enduring and enable a high quality of public space and landscape.

Interpretation and design response

  • Demonstrate interpretation of the national and cultural significance of the site in the design response. Have regard to past investigations and planning documents for the site including Heritage Management Plans.
  • Demonstrate investigation into the stories, memories and history of the site and respect how this may inform its future use and importance.
  • Demonstrate through the design response that views to the lake foreshore from Acton Peninsula, Commonwealth Avenue Bridge are framed and complementary.
  • Respect the symbolic and historic importance of the water axis as identified on the original plan for Canberra, and have regard to other important views.
  • Utilise natural features such as the topography, and the lakeside frontage in the built form and the design of public spaces.
  • Investigate the value of existing flora and fauna and incorporate valued features into the future design of the area.
Map 3: Key Views - This diagram illustrates the lines of sight across the basin, from the basin to parliament house, from parkes way to the basin, and from commonwealth bridge to the basin.

Map 3: Key Views

  • Wide Views
  • Framed Views
  • Water Axis

Theme 2 - Integrated Structure & Movement


Integrate West Basin with the city and maintain a continuous public pathway on the waterfront.


The National Capital Plan requires the following:

  • The width of the waterfront promenade will be 55m.
  • Relevant policies from Appendix T9 of the Plan include sections on the urban structure, reinforcing the main avenues, extending the city grid, lake reclamation and the land bridge, waterfront promenade, cycle ways and ferry, car parking and a road hierarchy.
  • Typical/indicative street cross sections.


This section identifies important spatial features and how the development layout and character will enable connection to the areas surrounding West Basin.

Diagram 3: Integrated Structure and Movement - This diagram illustrates the setbacks of the waterfront promenade, the street and the building frontages.

Diagram 3: Integrated Structure and Movement

The following guidelines supplement the policy above:

Public pathways

  • Provide a continuous, high quality public path on the waterfront of West Basin from the National Museum of Australia, around Acton Peninsula to R.G. Menzies Walk.
  • Design the waterfront pathway to seamlessly integrate into R.G Menzies Walk, at a minimum dimension of 4.5m, and preferably an unimpeded space of 10m wide.
  • Integrate new pathways into the wider public path network and into the series of spaces along the waterfront.
  • Design effective, direct connections to the surrounding destinations so that these facilities are accessible, and West Basin is meaningfully connected into all wider movement networks.
  • Provide multiple connections across Parkes Way, accessible to a full range of transport modes.
  • Provide a pathway design that is fully compliant with relevant Australian Standards and that prioritises pedestrians over all other users.
Map 4: Continuous public path - This diagram illustrates the path that will run contionously from Acton Peninsula, through West Basin and connect to Menzies Walk.

Map 4: Continuous public path

  • Continuous Public Pathway

Waterfront promenade

The waterfront promenade will be the civic focus of the West Basin precinct and will be a high quality public space accessible to a range of users.

  • Create a 55m waterfront promenade, measured from the reclaimed lake edge (555.93 AHD) to the property boundary, and extend this along the waterfront.
  • Define a connected series of high quality public spaces along the waterfront that support a wide range of activities day and night. These may include both formal and informal places, with hard and soft landscaping, that will support small to large-scale gatherings. It may include features such as artworks, entertainment spaces, commemorative works, landscape features, gardens and recreation spaces.
  • Facilities provided within the waterfront should include those for all age groups and include play areas and equipment.
  • The 55m waterfront may include a shared space roadway, with limited car-parking and access provision, but allowing public transport, disabled access, and be located more than 40m from the lake edge. The shared space roadway shall be able to be temporarily closed for events.
  • Design the form and materiality of the reclaimed lake edge to enable accessible connection to different precincts.
  • No buildings shall be located within 10m of the lake edge. A pavilion/structure, that adds to the lake amenity, and is an enduring and high quality design may extend into the lake, but shall not interrupt the continuous public pathway on the waterfront.
  • Design a generous, designated cycle commuter route within the waterfront, but away from the lake edge, that meaningfully connects to surrounding pathways and minimises conflict with pedestrians. Design for very low speed vehicle access to the waterfront.
  • Provide public transport stops at a minimum of 400m apart on the waterfront, and group bike facilities at stops.
Map 5: Waterfront promenade - This diagram illustrates the indicative waterfront promenade in relation to the waterfront alignment in the 1918 plan.

Map 5: Waterfront promenade

  • 55m Waterfront promenade
  • 1918 Plan Lake Edge

Accessible streets and spaces

  • Design the street layout as attractive public spaces, not just thoroughfares.
  • Define a street network that has a clear hierarchy where the design reflects the function and user priority. Include a variety of street types including laneways and shared spaces as well as primary and secondary streets.
  • Provide for a variety of transport modes with meaningful provision for cyclists, pedestrians, vehicles and all levels of mobility on all streets.
  • Design for pedestrians crossing on all road types but especially on streets with heavy pedestrian use.
  • Prioritise pedestrian movement over that of cars in laneways, minor and collector streets and public spaces.
  • Proposals will be measured and assessed against the road user hierarchy in the works approval process.

(Additional guidance on the design of street elements is contained in the public space and landscape section)

Map 6: Cyclepath network - This diagram sets out an indicative commuter bike network in relation to the indicative block layout.

Map 6: Cyclepath network

  • Street Network/Block Layout
  • Commuter Bike Networks
Map 7: Indicative development layout - This diagram shows the indicative development layhout in West Basin, highlighting the indicative block layout and the areas that will require reclamation.

Map 7: Indicative development layout

  • Areas Requiring Reclamation or Bridging
  • Indicative Block Layout
  • 55m Waterfront promenade
  • 1918 Plan Lake Edge

Block and section layout

  • Design a layout that is inter-connected and aligns with the surrounding street network. Create multiple new connections/intersections and a choice of routes.
  • Design a layout that has moderately small blocks of between 80m and 100m, broken up mid-block by laneways or mews. The development layout should be ‘fine grain' and comfortably support ‘human scaled' activity. This roughly reflects the existing dimensions of the Sydney and Melbourne building's development blocks in Civic of 85m x 100m. See indicative development layout plan.
  • Orient streets roughly on a north south/east west alignment to allow solar access to public spaces.
  • Align centrelines of primary streets with landmarks such as City Hill, The National Museum of Australia, Parliament House and provide multiple focal points along the waterfront promenade.
  • The block and section layout should provide a framework for distinctive and robust architecture that allows for high quality internal spaces with sufficient light penetration and air circulation.
  • Use block and section layout, spaces and features to frame views to Lake Burley Griffin and identify opportunities for sculpture and public art at mid points and end points of view lines.
  • Do not block important views with kiosks or other structures within the waterfront.


  • Limit parking along the waterfront promenade to drop off only, and do not locate car parking spaces on key view lines.
  • Parking access and structures should not be located on primary public spaces and streets.
  • Reduce the impact of on street parking by accommodating parking within underground structures.

Theme 3 - Land Use & Character


Support a diverse and vibrant community.


  • The National Capital Plan identifies that particular land uses are permissible.
  • Land Uses as described in the National Capital Plan (section 1.4) will be applied.
  • Appendix T9 of the Plan describes a vibrant precinct character with a mixture of uses to support this.


Designs for West Basin must include a wide range of social, community, recreation, cultural and entertainment facilities.

West Basin will be a mixed use precinct that must include all the functions and facilities that support a vibrant community. A substantial population will eventually live in West Basin and facilities in and around the precinct must include schools, parks, playgrounds, meeting places, shops, health and financial services, libraries, cultural and senior citizens centres and public toilets. The design and uses in the precinct must include places to play, work, rest, and engage in a way that provides residents and visitors of all ages with a high quality of life.

The design and layout of this mixture of uses must be logically and effectively connected to the pedestrian and bike network.

Development areas and allowable uses for the West Basin precinct are described in the Plan as Land Use A, B, C etc. The description below reiterates this and further defines the character of precincts and their role at West Basin.

These areas and their features are also illustrated in the attached diagrams and photographs.

Area A: Mixed Use Urban Neighbourhood

This area makes up the largest development area in West Basin and is therefore likely to contain various land uses within it. Area A will extend New Acton which currently supports a mix of uses, including cafés, retail, office, residential and hotel and motel uses. The uses in the New Acton precinct are appropriate to continue into the undeveloped section of this precinct. The land uses within Area A will support an active waterfront beyond 9am to 5pm, and will include a mixture of residential and commercial uses, with a concentration of commercial/retail activity fronting the waterfront at the ground level.

The character of this area will be attractive and will support a well-used, functional public realm.

In addition to those land uses identified in the plan, Area A should include serviced apartments.

Area B: Commonwealth Avenue Edge

Land uses in Area B will support a mixture of commercial, civic, and residential uses in an environment that can utilise the high exposure to a major traffic route of Commonwealth Avenue.

The overall character of this edge will be formal and well defined because of the symbolic nature of this Avenue. This treatment will help to realise the original intent of Commonwealth Avenue as a vital and active urban boulevard. The ground floor will include commercial focus, while the upper levels will include a mix of residential and possibly office development. The character of this edge should be distinctive and reflect elements of the West Basin precinct.

Area C: Water Axis

Permitted land uses include a cultural facility, place of assembly, national capital use and waterfront promenade.

While Area C can accommodate a private or public facility, the design of the external area must maintain a public promenade along the lake edge, as described elsewhere in this document.

Area C sits on the water axis as defined in the original Griffins' plan. Land uses in this area will be an important visual anchor and destination within West Basin, and is described in the plan as a significant building, cultural attraction or landscape space.

Any facility for this site needs to respond to the symbolic axis, and be a modest but memorable feature that contributes an active frontage to the public space.

Area D: Open Space - Water-front Promenade

Land uses permitted include, public utility, aquatic, tourist and recreational facilities, kiosk/café/bar/restaurants, park, road and a pathway corridor.

The character of the waterfront promenade is a high quality urban plaza, with a continuous public pathway along the reclaimed waterfront. The series of formal and informal urban spaces within the waterfront promenade will be suitable for public recreational, tourist and social gatherings. The lake edge may include pontoons and projections into the lake to support the amenity of recreational use of the lake. Buildings in this area must support the primary function as a recreational and circulation area and must not encroach into the continuous pathway network. Co-location of facilities within the one structure is encouraged.

Area E: Road

This area is a road reserve in the land use diagram. Despite its clear functional element the design and layout should seek to minimise hard surfaces, and provide amenity for all road users. Proposals should seek to reduce the area from that shown in the plan. Landscape and public pathways should also be part of the design of this area.

Map 8: Land Use Plan from the National Capital Plan - This diagram illustrates the land use areas in West Basin, including roads and open space.

Map 8: Land Use Plan from the National Capital Plan

  • Area A
  • Area B
  • Area C
  • Open Space/Waterfront Promenade (Aread D)
  • Road (Area E)
  • Adjoining Central National Map Areas

Theme 4 - Built Form


Define a distinctive built character and design excellence.


  • The National Capital Plan requires the following:
  • Buildings will generally be medium rise up to 25 metres high.
  • Taller building elements may be considered on sites North of Parkes Way.
  • Building height on [within] the waterfront promenade will be limited to 8 metres (maximum 2 storeys).
  • Parapet height of buildings fronting the promenade will be a maximum of 16 metres.
  • Taller building elements to a maximum of 25 metres and not exceeding 30 per cent of the site area may be considered.
  • Buildings should typically be constructed to the property boundary.
  • Other policies require a high quality of design, incorporation of public art and sensitive environmental impacts.


The building form for West Basin needs to be carefully designed to frame and complement high quality public spaces. The human scaled but dense built edge to the waterfront will help create a precinct character that is excellent, distinctive and commensurate with the site's central position.

All development proposals will be subject to independent expert design review of buildings as part of the works approval process.
Buildings in the precinct should be designed to achieve features set out in the guidelines below.

Map 9: Indicative heights plan - This diagram illustrates the height restrictions and setbacks intended for West Basin.

Map 9: Indicative heights plan

  • Setback of 30m above 4 storeys
  • Up to 25m, taller elements conditional
  • 2 Storeys, 8m max, limited
  • 16m Frontages, up to 25m setback (see table)
  • 16m and up to 4 storeys setback from public pathway

Precinct character

  • Buildings and the urban landscape shall embody a precinct character that is distinctive, contemporary and demonstrates a high quality of design and construction.
  • Superficial mimicry of historical eras or overtly themed building features, out of context will not be supported.
  • Each building element should contribute positively to the logic and way-finding of West Basin. Artistic and sculptural elements may be included in the façade or roof form to provide a sense of address, varied profile and to mark corners or view lines.
  • Buildings should be designed to have active frontages onto streets and public places. This means no blank walls, and the use of windows, visually permeable materials and façade detailing so that public areas are either passively surveyed or have the impression of interaction between the inside and outside of buildings.


  • No deviation above the height limits prescribed in the plan shall be permitted in any form. The height of buildings and roof expression should include building articulation at key locations and a varied profile within the consistent envelope of the height limits.
  • Buildings shall present a moderate scaled edge of 4 storeys or less (except kiosks) to all public spaces and streets, laneways and avenues.
  • Building detailing shall have a clearly defined parapet that reflects this moderate scale.
  • Buildings fronting the foreshore shall be 16m high maximum. Setbacks shall be configured to minimise the visual and environmental impact of any higher elements.
  • The adjacent table identifies the height, setback, and building character for areas within the West Basin Precinct. This is supported by the indicative heights plan below. The areas identified reflect those set out in the Land Use Plan at section 1.4 of the Plan.
Program 1.1 - National Capital Functions
Land Use AreaHeight/SetbacksCharacter
Area A - Mixed Use Urban Neighbourhood Up to 16m (maximum 4 storeys) fronting the waterfront for a depth of 30m; beyond this area to the north buildings may be up to 25m high Maintain a moderate scaled frontage to the waterfront promenade with taller elements setback from the frontage Design the waterfront building frontage as a backdrop to the waterfront promenade
Area B - Commonwealth Avenue Edge Generally moderate scale fronting the avenue, consistent with a boulevard character, taller elements up to 25m high considered consistent with Appendix T9 of the Plan Buildings fronting the lake up to 16m (maximum 4 storeys) Formal character Facade details to include vertical and horizontal features Feature building detailing and form at key corners
Area C - Water Axis (National Capital Use) Height maximum 16m (4 storeys), Generous, iconic and memorable, high quality, rich materials pallet, cultural or scientific institution Building form may be sculptural and/or stepped with the topography Must maintain a minimum 10m wide public access along the waterfront, linking to the Menzies Walk dimensions and materials Building facades must have an active edge and visual sense of address at the ground floor and fronting public spaces Must also provide a strong relationship to the ANU precinct with direct connections and active frontages
Area D – Waterfront Promenade 2 storeys maximum (8 metres) Any building forms (including shade structures) to be setback from the reclaimed lake edge a minimum of 10m Discrete, limited and isolated buildings that are recessive to the public space and landscape structure Buildings footprints should be minimal and buildings limited in number Building types may be described as kiosks, cafes, with a simple and complementary materials palette. Building form may be light-weight or sculptural
Area E - Road No buildings in the road reserve n/a

Mass and building articulation

  • Facades shall be highly detailed, varied, well articulated, with horizontal features at key datum points and vertical definition. Facades should not be monolithic and shall reflect a sense of individual addresses, human scale and modulation.
  • Buildings shall be well articulated at the ground level offering visual delight, active edges and passive surveillance of public spaces, all roads and laneways. The façade detailing of the lower levels should also be designed to allow passive surveillance of the streets.
  • Buildings shall have a clearly designed form that is positively defined from a distance as well as up close.
  • Ensure that the visual impact of the proposed development does not overwhelm important civic features from key vantage points along the opposite waterfront, City Hill and Commonwealth Avenue Bridge. Buildings should not obstruct wider views of mountain ridges when viewed from the southern foreshore of Lake Burley Griffin.
  • The use of private open spaces such as balconies and roof gardens within setbacks is encouraged.
  • The visual impact of functional building elements should be very limited and not detract from the overall building form, including minimising visibility of roof plant, lift overruns, air conditioning units, antennae and cabling, vehicular entries, loading docks and service areas. Visibility is to be considered from public and private spaces.

Vehicle provision

  • Vehicular access should be designed so there is minimal negative impact to the active edge, and to the continuity of the pedestrian environment. Car parking structures should be ‘sleeved' with active building edges. In particular, loading docks and related services should be restricted to areas not adjacent to the waterfront promenade.
  • Parking should be accommodated for within the building design, in basements and/or should be set behind active frontages.
  • Vehicular service and functional elements of the building should be integrated into the design and façade treatment and should minimise the visual and accessibility impact on the public realm.
  • Environmental design and impacts
  • Design buildings to limit overshadowing of the waterfront promenade, and to limit negative microclimate impacts.
  • Incorporate best practice Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD) and design buildings to a ‘Green Star' rating of 5 or above (representing Australian excellence) on the Green Building Council of Australia rating system.

Building materials

  • The overall character of the West Basin precinct should be high quality and contemporary. This should be reinforced though a simple and limited palette of materials that is harmonious with the area and features of local buildings.
  • Materials that improve with age should be selected.
  • Materials that have solid mass are supported, not just surface colour treatment and superficial finishes.
  • Building materials used should have a balance of transparent and solid elements, with a high portion of glass facing the public realm, especially at the ground floor. Colour bonded sheet products on walls will not be permitted. Materials must be enduring and not superficial. Low levels of reflectivity must be achieved in addition to the use of sun shades and balconies to visually break up areas of the façade.
  • Materials must be low maintenance. Materials, design elements and treatments with known negative maintenance and or public use issues will not be permitted.

Theme 5 - Public Space & Landscape


Design high quality, public spaces and landscape.


  • The National Capital Plan requires the following in relation to public spaces and landscape:
  • Landscape to reinforce the structure of West Basin and surrounds
  • Formal treatments to the Main Avenues, Major Streets and Waterfront Promenade.
  • Minimise the visual impact of parking.
  • Use a limited palette of high-quality materials, street furniture and lighting.
  • Use elegant simple and bold designs, using soft and hard treatments in the promenade and waterfront.
  • Ensure safety though well-lit streetscapes.
  • Footpaths should be designed to cater for pedestrians, seating, cafes, planting and urban art in response to land use areas.
  • Public art should be included as an integral part of the design.


The design of the public spaces should be an integrated part of the proposal for the whole precinct. The public space and landscape design must provide for a richness of experience and a variety of spaces that are designed to have specific character and functions, not just dressing to the edges of buildings.

The public space, landscape and urban design proposals for the site will be the subject of the design review panel's approval, prior to works approval.

The public space should create a series of spatial experiences that align with the significance of the site and enhance its role as an urban precinct.

The design of the public space must draw on the wider landscape setting of the Acton Peninsula, Commonwealth Park and surrounds, including the symbolic connection to Black Mountain.

Streets and spaces

Streets should be designed as places that support a range of activity, not just transport links between destinations. This means designing the streetscape as a series of high quality public spaces and that the design of these spaces supports effective pedestrian movement and a rich range of activities.

  • Streetscapes, pocket parks, landscape features and plazas in West Basin should be designed to support a richness of human activity.
  • Streetscape materials shall be durable with low maintenance surfaces and finishes.
  • Streetscape materials should provide rich textures and subtle colours and be part of a consistent design language across the precinct.
  • Streets and spaces design and materials should facilitate ease of movement for people of all ages and mobility levels.
  • Footpaths and cycleways (other than in the waterfront) should be designed to have generous proportions, with a minimum width of 2.5m, and to exceed national standards.
  • The design and surface materials shall provide subtle direction for preferred use of the space, through level, colour, textural changes rather than using bollards and fences.
  • Shade structures may be incorporated into the waterfront promenade, and be configured to provide protection of seating and play areas.
  • Streets should incorporate art and sculpture to define spaces and create a focus, particularly within view corridors. Artworks may include historical, commemorative or instructive features that are incorporated into the surfaces of public spaces.
  • On street car parking is allowed in streets other than the waterfront, but must be carefully designed so as to minimise accessibility and visual impacts. Trees must be used to shade and soften car parking areas.

Trees and landscape

  • Landscape should be experienced as a designed entity with specific character and function that is not secondary to buildings.
  • Street trees should be designed into all streets and located at regular intervals of 12m maximum (defined in response to selected tree species).
  • Street trees should be well established and a third or more of full development height when planted. Trees must be planted consistent with a NCA preferred planting detail.
  • Trees must be maintained by the developer for a generous agreed period from practical completion.
  • Landscape treatment and street trees should be designed to provide physical and design connection to the surrounding precincts.
  • Street trees should be used to soften hard infrastructure and define the series of formal and informal spaces along the waterfront promenade.
  • Generally trees species chosen should be demonstrated to thrive in current local climatic conditions.
  • Consideration should be given to providing landscape corridors for local fauna.
  • Preferred tree species should have reliable form, minimal propensity for limb fall, and be hardy.
  • All street trees are to be irrigated and to incorporate WSUD features in their planting environment.
  • Planter boxes may be used to complement spaces and movement networks, and be of human scale and proportion.

Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD)

  • Incorporate Water Sensitive Urban Design features into the design so that the environmental impact on the lake and the surrounds is neutral. Ensure runoff/excess storm water generated on site is utilised on site and enters Lake Burley Griffin in an uncontaminated state.

Safety and accessibility

  • Design spaces with clear lines of sight to enable visibility of hazards and to maintain safety of pedestrians and cyclists. Design out blind spot opportunities.
  • Maximise casual observation of public space from building and movement networks.
  • Design out trip hazards and configure gradients to Australian Standards.

Maintenance and materials

  • Materials design elements and treatments with known negative maintenance and or public use issues will not be permitted on the waterfront promenade. The NCA will undertake maintenance and operational reviews of design as part of the Works Approval process.

Street furniture

  • Street furniture, signage, lighting and other streetscape infrastructure should be simple, elegant and robust and read as a unified design language throughout the precinct.
  • Street furniture is encouraged to have multiple functions – for example using planter walls as seats and to also incorporate signage.
  • Group and align street furniture, lighting and signage infrastructure, service pits and landscape features.
  • Locate street furniture out of key movement corridors.
  • Seating should be generously provided for and positioned to activate and watch over public spaces.
  • Seating and street furniture types should be consistent with the character and quality of that used along R.G. Menzies Walk.
  • Group bike parking facilities adjacent to bus stops, services and facilities.


  • All proposals to comply with the National Capital Authority Lighting Policy.
  • Use lighting to define spaces, create continuation of the design language of the precinct, and incorporate lighting into street furniture and public space design – such as in walls and surfaces.
  • Provide a consistent palette of lights across the precinct.
  • Light poles should be located at regular intervals and provide safety and public space visibility.
  • Poles should be multi use for signage, lighting and other features as appropriate.
  • Lighting should facilitate safe and accessible use of public spaces at night.
  • Lighting fixtures and design with low maintenance should be selected.

Bollards and fences

  • The use of bollards to define the edges of spaces shall be minimal, with reliance on clear design of spaces and surface textures and materials to direct preferred movement/use of areas.
  • Treated pine/coppiced log low fences are not supported in West Basin.
  • Tree guards shall be permanent features and be consistent design with other street furniture materials.


  • Signage must be simple, clear and minimal and consistent with the overall design language.
  • Signage and way-finding features may be integrated into the design of public spaces, street furniture and infrastructure in a high quality way, such as through surface and materials changes and sand blasted symbols.
  • Signage may be incorporated into the structure of street furniture but must be secondary to the overall form.


Click here to dowload the West Basin Precint Guidelines as a single PDF file (10Mb)

Appendix M - Residential

Land Use


  1. The National Capital Authority's policy in respect of residential land use is that it may only be used for the purpose of erecting a dwelling, a residential flat building or a medium density dwelling where that building or dwelling complies with the covenants set out in the lease except that Dual Occupancy may be approved in accordance with Appendix P of this Plan and other residential buildings may be approved that comply with conditions in Appendix H or with other specific conditions for residential development specified elsewhere in the Plan.
  2. A residential flat building or medium density dwelling may be erected on those Crown Lease lands where a covenant has been made between the Commonwealth and the lessee permitting such erection.
  3. All buildings are required to comply with the relevant Design and Siting Conditions of the National Capital Authority.
  4. As part of the consideration of an application for any residential development or redevelopment, other than for a single dwelling house, the National Capital Authority will require the applicant to notify the proposal in the principal daily newspaper circulating throughout Canberra inviting comments within two weeks of that notice appearing and for the comments to be provided to the National Capital Authority. The National Capital Authority will take into consideration such comments received before approving the application. The National Capital Authority will also require written assurance from the applicant that neighbours have been separately informed in writing of the proposal and have been made aware of the intention to invite comments on the proposal by way of a notice appearing in the local newspaper and by a sign describing the proposal being prominently displayed at the front boundary of the site. When comments are received they will be used to assist the National Capital Authority delegates to determine whether or not the stated performance criteria are satisfied and to establish if the intentions of the policy applying to the site regarding residential amenity can be met.
    For single dwelling house applications the National Capital Authority will require the applicant to notify the adjoining neighbours of the proposal in writing and by a sign describing the proposal being prominently displayed at the front boundary of the site. Comments received will need to be provided to the National Capital Authority and will be taken into consideration when assessing such applications.
  5. For the purposes of residential land use the following definitions will apply:


means a room or suite of rooms occupied or used or so constructed or adapted as to be capable of being occupied or used as a separate domicile and includes outbuildings, if any, that are normal to the enjoyment and exclusive use of the dwelling.

Residential Flat Building

means a building or group of buildings containing two or more dwellings.

Medium Density Dwelling

means a building designed, constructed or adapted for and used as a private dwelling for a single household which forms part of a group of two or more dwellings and includes group houses, villa homes, cottage houses, courtyard houses, town houses and semi-detached or terrace buildings and the like.


means in relation to an area, a planning area or a locality, includes such quality or condition in the area, planning area or locality as contributes to its pleasantness and harmony and to its better enjoyment.

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