An update on the East West Link

As reported in July the Victorian State Government is getting ready to trash an inner city oasis for the sake of a toll road. Since my last post there have been quite a few developments.

Firstly in some good news for the owners of the soon to be completed ‘Evo’ Apartments in Parkville, the State Government has bought out their contracts which relieves them of certain financial ruin. This was the states only logical, compassionate move. Despite the fact it cost taxpayers $90 million dollars,  it is something that all Victorians need to get used to if we are to go down this destructive tunnel path. It is my sincerest hope that other individuals will also be compensated for the excessive financial burdens placed upon them from this project as well.

Secondly, in terms of the merits of the project itself, there have been a swath of well respected organisations, local governments and peak bodies who have all come out against the project.

These include

Despite this massive level of objection, the State Government has undertaken too much high visibility political posturing, to let expert opinion or public opinion correct their policy mistakes.

Ross Straw Field

Ross Straw Field, Set to be completely demolished

The next stage in the process was the release of the Comprehensive Impact Statement or CIS for public view and scrutiny. This provides individuals and organisations the opportunity to lodge their concerns. This is a vital step in planning such a massive project and is in fact is mandatory under state major project laws. For a government major project, this process replaces a number of planning and consultation processes which are required of citizens who wish to build or develop.

East West link Comprehensive Impact Statement Documents 

Unfortunately it would seem that this process, as identified by The Age Newspaper, is a complete sham. The winning bid for the project which will include the ‘detailed design’ component will have been awarded by April 2014. The consultation process which should direct the detailed design will be completed in July 2014.

Words fail me as to how to describe how wrong this is.

Despite the obvious short comings of the process I have put together the following submission for the CIS

Response to East West Link CIS

We submit that the Assessment Committee should recommend the Planning Minister NOT approve or grant the relevant planning amendment, heritage permits, water licence, road management consent and EPA works.

This submission is focused largely around the issues relevant to the Western end of Parkville and Precinct 3 as defined in the comprehensive impact statement. We note that this is not the only impacted area and that there are other major concerns with this project not discussed in this submission. The community and environment within this area are set to be sacrificed in a truly unprecedented way by the proposed project.

Generally the drastic consequences for Parkville are indicated in the image below.

Some of the effects of the proposed tollway connection

Some of the effects of the proposed tollway connection

Native vegetation and biodiversity

The CIS erroneously states “there would be no net loss in the contribution made by native vegetation to Victoria’s biodiversity”. It is quite clear that the project will not meet the City of Melbourne’s 1997 Parks Policy of having a no net reduction in park area.

According to the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA), the proposed project will be ‘immensely damaging’ to Royal Park.  Much of the wetlands west of Manningham Street will be lost or overshadowed (and hence permanently compromised) by elevated freeway structures.

The Victorian AILA have carefully considered all available information and believe this project should not proceed in its current form because of the severe ecological, cultural and heritage impacts on Royal Park and Moonee Ponds Creek.

Urban Design and Visual Amenity

As described by the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA), this current proposal for this project does not adequately consider its urban design impacts on the city.  The project, if successful, will significantly impact traffic flows and urban usage throughout Melbourne and the impacts of this have not been considered in the publicly available materials. 

In addition to the apparent lack of consideration of broader urban design implications, there will be a large number of areas with a significant negative urban design and visual amenity impacts.  The current design does not propose any mitigation.  An example of one area which will be particularly impacted is Manningham Street.  Both during construction and operation, a parkside street will be forever altered for the worse with a large number of freeway overpasses.

A transparent, broader, integrated planning approach needs to be utilised by the government,which can clearly demonstrate the improved community outcome objectives, rather than the present ‘tunnel vision’ focus on traffic, freight and logistics.

 

Noise, Vibration, Air Emissions and Light Spill

The proposed construction is planned to last for at least 5 years.  This construction would be in extremely close proximity to residential areas and the huge potential impacts on the residents would need to be carefully managed.  Another impact of construction would be on people with investment properties who would struggle to get tenants without a decrease in rent during construction.

Excessive and permanently ongoing traffic noise during operation is considered ‘likely’ in precincts 2, 3, 4 and 5.  It would be entirely unreasonable to put further burden on the residents with permanent ongoing detriments during operations.

Traffic connectivity

The risk of increased travel times for residents within precinct 3 is considered in the report as unlikely. This is incorrect as Lennon Street and Manningham Street are to be cut off from the west by removal of access to Boundary road.

Residents on Lennon Street, Manningham Street and Brunswick will no longer be able to connect to Citylink heading south or Racecourse road going west.

 

Transparency, Cost, and Justification 

The only public business case for this project does not show it as being worth constructing.  The secrecy of the current business case is deeply troubling when considering a large expenditure of taxpayer money and permanent alterations to public and private property within our city.  In an open democracy, secrecy about such a major issue should not be possible.

Infrastructure Australia does not rate the East West link as the most important transport project for Victoria.  The state government has consistently underfunded preparation for the more vital Melbourne Metro tunnel.  The suggestion that the East West link should be built first because of the government having previously funneled more money into its preparation seems strongly politically motivated.

Community and Social amenity

We submit that as found by Melbourne City Council, Manningham Street will suffer from reduced amenity, community dislocation and fragmentation.

The residents of the units within 18 Lennon Street and Manningham Street would interface with a freeway overpass rather than a secluded laneway.  The impact of these overpasses in terms of noise, shadow, and overlooking concerns has not been adequately considered.

The widely publicized Evo apartments are not the only dwellings to be located within the triangle of freeway ramps off Manningham Street.  In addition to private homes, there is also the Elderly Chinese resident’s home to consider.  The residents of this home are key stakeholders whose health and comfort must be considered during both construction and operation.

All of these land owners will face the prospect of substantial property devaluation. As it stands currently, owners trying to sell their property for what was a fair price before the project are struggling to sell at all. It is quite possible that some individual land owners within or adjacent to the project boundary may be bankrupted or suffer severe financial hardship from this project. This scenario will eventuate if banks request that the owners provide more equity to offset the fall in value of their diminished properties.   

The state should not bankrupt its citizens who are unfortunate enough to be in the ‘sacrificial zone’. Compensation to all affected parties, not just limited to those being compulsorily acquired, is a must.

 

Recommendations

 1. 

  • Project should not go ahead at all, the cost in environmental, social and economic terms is far too high to justify the benefits.

If the project does go ahead

Process

2. A proper planning process must be undertaken to adequately plan and assess the project rather than the politically motivated fast tracked disaster that we are currently heading towards.

3. Residents and land owners outside the project area who have been identified as having large adverse effects to amenity should be compensated in full for loss of value, loss of amenity of their properties.

4. The State government should commit to purchasing properties within 200 metres of the project boundary under compulsory acquisition laws when so requested by the owners.

5. An independent arbiter must be put in place to ensure the rights of the residents and the responsibilities of both the LMA and the Project contractor are upheld.

6. The independent arbiter must be available 24 hours a day throughout the construction period

7. Residents should be entitled to regular structural inspections of their property by a fully independent inspector at the expense of the contractor (at least annually) for the duration of construction.

Design

8. The tunnels should continue under Ross Straw field and West Parkville and surface at West of Citylink as recommended by the Australian Institute of Architects

9. Royal Park must not be reduced in size as per the City of Melbourne 1997 Parks Policy.

10. If overpasses must go ahead over Manningham Street they should be within a sound and light restricting tube.

11. If Ross Straw field must be obliterated, new parkland area must be reinstated above the tollway as per the City of Melbourne suggestion

12. The ability for residents in precinct 3 to drive from Lennon street to Boundary road must not be removed

END STATEMENT

Design is a process. It should be informed and complete, not interfered with or half baked.

For more information about the project and what can be done to stop it

RAT: Residents Against the Tunnel

Yarra Campaign for Action on Transport

Architecture is for Everyone

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About Michael Smith

Architect and Director of Atelier Red + Black based in Melbourne, Australia
This entry was posted in all posts, East West Link, Government Policy, Urban Design and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to An update on the East West Link

  1. Pingback: East West Tollway to trash an inner-city oasis | The Red and Black Architect

  2. Nick Andreula says:

    I’ve always loved the area of Ross Straw field, royal park and princes park. Have spent many a time there, be it running, walking or just losing myself in all its ambiance. Spent my first 15 years of my working life in the area too at the closely situated CSL limited, so I’ve always had a close connection with it.

    I never knew the true damage that the East West Link would create until I recently looked at leasing an apartment at the Evo complex.

    An East Front apartment facing Ross straw Field with its own Courtyard and suitable living space really appealed to me, as I previously mentioned, I love the area and because of it, it ticked all the boxes….

    Until I started to think…why are these going reasonably cheap, why are so many vacant and then I decided to investigate more about the East West link proposal and came across your extensive report and recommendations. You’re the type of people we need running our state, not the narrow minded fools currently in office.

    I too don’t agree with the project and I too thought why couldn’t the tunnel be extended so the Manningham Street area remains as is?

    Do you believe there is any chance it will remain in its present form?

    It’s also interesting and thought you may be interested in this too, that at no stage has the real estate agent mentioned what was proposed in the area.

    I even asked if there is any move on the weekly rental rate and he said NO. Currently $365 per week, apparently they were asking $415 at one stage.

    I’m so tempered to live in the area still, though with 5 over passes what kind of living would this be?

    Surely those in government would know this is not environmentally sound.

    I hope at worst the tunnels remain under Ross straw field and at best the project gets scrapped.

    Do I take the risk and sign a 12 month lease and live in my ideal location hoping it remains or am I committing residential suicide in doing this?

    Your thoughts and feedback would be greatly appreciated.

    Regards

    nick

  3. Hi Nick

    Firstly thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment.
    You are not wrong that the Western end of Parkville for the time being is a beautiful place to live and enjoy.

    The East West Link project at the moment is in a critical stage of assessment via committee. For the latest updates I strongly recommend reading the community blog which is updated several times a day. The address is http://eastwestlinkblog.com/live-blog-public-hearings/

    Regarding the question of renting an Evo apartment, I would suggest that it would be only a worthwhile prospect if you were prepared to move again in January 2015 once construction commences.

    As for the real estate agents I think it is appalling but not altogether unsurprising that they did not disclose the impending urban disaster.

    Cheers

    Michael

  4. Pingback: A Better East West Link Design Revealed | The Red and Black Architect

  5. Pingback: 2014 Retrospective | The Red and Black Architect

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