WATSON COMMUNITY SURVEY – 2017

The WCA Inc. believes the new developments in north Watson, and the proposals for more are not befitting of modern planning in the ACT. The WCA Inc. will continue to lobby the ACT Legislative Assembly for a master plan for Watson as a suburb in totality, and will draw on the results of the Watson Community Survey 2017 to do so.

All residents of Watson and businesses operating in Watson were invited to participate via: the Watzon; the WCA Inc. Facebook page; posters at the local shops; face-to-face at the local shops and preschool fete; and Majura Primary School newsletter. The survey was available online during May 2017, with hard copies available upon request.

248 survey responses were received, representing 10% of all Watson households/businesses.

  • There was overwhelming support for the incorporation of public open green space with trees and pathways as part of developments in north Watson.
  • There was support for mixed housing development as well as the retention and improvement of the open space on the site of the old Watson High School site.
  • The three aspects of Watson most commonly liked by Watson residents were: the open, green spaces in south Watson; local shopping centre and sense of community.
  • The three aspects of Watson most commonly disliked by Watson residents were: the state of play grounds; design and development of north Watson; and state of the former petrol station site.

More detail on the survey results is available below.

Question 1: What community facilities are most needed / desirable for Watson?
This question was designed to see if there was commonality in desires. 10 options plus ‘other’ were offered. The results indicate strong support for public toilets located near the shops, followed closely by parkland (trees and grass). Support was expressed for community vegetable gardens, sporting facilities and more public car parking.

Question 2: How important is it that Watson has safe and convenient pedestrian/bike pathways linking all residents, including north Watson, to public transport and public amenities?

This question deliberately asked respondents to think about the ‘importance’ regardless of whether they were ‘campaigners’ for such facilities and amenities, or not. The results show overwhelming support for such pathways, with 178 (72%) respondents rating 10/10.

Question 3: How useful would it be to have a high quality pedestrian/bike axis extending from the northern extreme of Watson (The Fair) to Downer, via Watson shops and Majura Primary School?

This question asked respondents to consider what effect this would have on them, or the suburb, even if they had not previously considered it. The results show very strong support, but with greater distribution of responses: 134 rated 10/10; 15 were ambivalent (5/10) and 13 unsupportive (<5/10).

Question 4: There is a proposal to establish student accommodation at Canberra Technology Park (the old Watson High School site) to service Watson tertiary institutions. What other accommodation do you think would be an asset in this area?

This question sought to inform Watson residents that student accommodation is being sought, and in light of that information, what else they would they consider appropriate at the site. Six options plus ‘other’ were presented. The results show only 17.7% selected ‘none’ while almost as many (16.5%) were in favor of supported housing for aged, disabled, disadvantaged. The strongest support (32%) was for a mix of the options presented. The ‘other’ responses basically supported the general responses.

Question 5: As part of a redevelopment of Canberra Technology Park (the old Watson High School site) other facilities are also being considered. What do you think would most improve this area?

This question was designed to collect further opinions about the space not presently developed. It was deliberately open-ended. Seven options plus ‘other’ were offered. The results show very strong support for outdoor recreation, children’s playground and parkland. Preference for a community hall/meeting place was greater than landscaped gardens and/or a dog park.

Question 6: How important do you think it is to include public open green space with trees and pathways (similar to that in the existing older areas of Watson) as part of developments in north Watson?

This question was chosen to focus attention on development in north Watson as separate from the 50-year-old planned south (old) Watson. The results show overwhelming support for the inclusion of public open green space and pathways as part of developments in north Watson. Despite two thirds of respondents not living in the north Watson area, the results indicate Watson residents accord great value to the 50-year-old plan.

Question 7: What activities or facilities would you like to see supported in Watson’s green spaces? 

This question was designed to draw out further responses about present and future green spaces. Six options plus ‘other’ were offered. The results show very strong support (71%) for greenways which support pedestrian and bicycle travel, and also provide a mix of vegetation (44%), while also acting as wildlife corridors (51%). There was also very strong support for children playgrounds (58%).

Question 8: What specific aspects of Watson do you currently like / dislike?

This question was designed to find further information about what respondents valued in their living precinct, without ANY prompts. Most respondents indicated what aspects they liked and disliked. Some respondents provided a short list of likes and dislikes and others provided considerable detail.

Liked

The open, green spaces in south Watson were most commonly liked by respondents. Respondents were disappointed this aspect of south Watson had been overlooked in north Watson, giving rise to the disconnect between the two areas of Watson. Comments highlighted ‘established trees and tree lined streets’, ‘leafiness’, ‘green corridors’ and ‘bird and wild life’ and ‘open, green spaces as supporting active lifestyles’.

The local shopping centre was the second most commonly liked aspect of Watson. Respondents consistently commented on the ‘convenience’ and ‘range’ of the shopping centre on the corner of Knox and Windeyer Streets. While the local shopping centre is liked and supported by respondents, many noted the impact of population growth on the shopping centre and the need for additional shopping facilities, a face lift for the southern building, absence of public toilets and insufficient car parking.

The sense of community was the third most commonly liked aspect of Watson. Respondents consistently commented on the friendliness of ‘neighbours’ and ‘passers-by on foot paths’, and noted the contribution of the local shopping centre, and efforts by the local preschool, schools and WCA Inc. to building a sense of community.

Disliked

The state of play grounds in Watson (both north and south) was most commonly disliked by respondents. Respondents frequently remarked that play grounds in south Watson were ‘old’ and ‘not well equipped or maintained’, and play grounds in north Watson were inadequate – with the Fair having a single swing only. A number expressed the view that Watson’s play grounds were poor in comparison to those of neighbouring inner north suburbs.

The design and development of north Watson was the second most commonly disliked aspect of Watson. Respondents who resided in north Watson, in particular the Fair, commented on ‘inadequate car parking’, ‘narrow roads’, ‘congestion’ and ‘insufficient open, green space’. Another common theme was ‘inadequate services’ in north Watson. Respondents were critical of the lack of any shopping/cafe facilities in north Watson, with many remarking it is too far to walk to the existing shops. Respondents from both north and south Watson were critical of the disconnect between the two areas of Watson. A number commented on the physical divide between north and south – with no good pathway linking the two either across the centre or via Antill Street.

The state of the former petrol station site was the third most commonly disliked aspect of Watson. Comments on the appearance of the site included it is ‘ugly’, ‘an eyesore’ and ‘a waste land’. The overwhelming opinion was that the site should be developed as a priority. Respondents noted the need to improve the visual amenity of the site and surrounding area; the potential to ease the pressure on the existing local shopping centre; and the need to increase facilities and services commensurate with the growth of Watson.

Question 9: Do you have any further comments – things you would like to see developed in Watson not previously covered in the survey?

This question was designed to give an opportunity to those who believed the questions were too prescriptive or loaded, and/or who wanted to ensure their opinion was voiced. Some respondents provided a short response and others provided considerable detail.

The development of local shopping services was the most common response. Respondents typically wanted: renewal and expansion of the existing shopping centre on the corner of Knox and Windeyer Streets, including car parking and public toilets; and development of shopping services in north Watson. Some listed specific shopping services. Many respondents noted shopping services had not grown commensurate with the population growth experienced in Watson and was not within walking distance for some residents, and for those who drove, parking could be difficult to find. Respondents suggested as a minimum for north Watson: a local corner store / independent grocer; and café /coffee shop. Respondents noted that community facilities in north Watson would provide a place to gather and mingle, and would help to build a sense of community. There was overwhelming support for a bakery in the suburb.

The development of recreation facilities was the second most common response. Respondents called for: upgrades to existing play grounds in south Watson; and construction of new play grounds in north Watson. Several suggested facilities be upgraded / developed to appeal to children of all ages, including teenagers. Most of the suggestions were for outdoor recreation facilities, including for adults, and many specific suggestions were received.

The development of bicycle transport infrastructure was the third most common response. A large number of respondents called for: widening of existing cycle paths; creation of new cycle paths extending from north Watson to Downer and Dickson via the local shopping centre; and creation of new cycle paths extending to the light rail stop at the top of Phillip Avenue, and the need for secure bike parking at the light rail stop.

 

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