Red + Black Exclusive:
The East West Link Development Plans and parts of the Property Impact Report, for the Western interchange, which were held as secret documents under the former Napthine Victorian State Government, have finally been released under a Freedom of Information request lodged in October last year. These key documents were required to be produced by the planning approval granted by the then Planning Minister Matthew Guy.
These documents are crucial to understanding what the planning approval had in fact approved and what the impacts on and compensation for local residents would be.
Meanwhile The East West Link project has been put on hold by the newly elected Andrews Government, while the process of cancelling the project is sorted out. In addition the Linking Melbourne Authority has been advised of it’s demise and has begun the closure process. There are also still three outstanding court challenges to the project which will need to have conclusions reached.
The Development Plans
Last October in the post entitled East West Link and the Secret Development Plans the following was noted:
The first possibility is that these [detailed planning] issues have been resolved in the development plans, as they should have. These details are then being deliberately withheld from public scrutiny, for the benefit of the Liberal Party election prospects and public relations. The second possibility is that these details have not been finalised and are therefore not part of the development plans which were endorsed by the Planning Minister. This would be an absolute disaster as the controls for what constitutes an acceptable design response would be transferred to either the LMA or the construction consortium who would be entitled to build whatever was expedient and cheap for them to construct.
Red + Black Architect October 2014
With the release of the development plans endorsed by the Planning Minister it is now clear that the second possibility was closest to the truth. The level of detail on which the approval was granted is shockingly absent of measurable content. Critical details such as the height of the flyovers, distance to houses and the requirements of associated infrastructure is all absent. Included however are a great many perspective images similar to those in the glossy brochures which are full of photo-shopped atmosphere and soft and fuzzy edges that are near impossible to use for regulatory purposes. The project sections, which should have been very informative drawings, were absent of context and had no indication of heights of any of the structures above ground level. If this level of drawing was attempted for use in a private application it would not even be assessed by the responsible authority until such information had been provided.
The result of this approach is that a vast quantity of design elements critical to the understanding and planning approval is left to be described in a vaguely written set of performance requirements. This means that the state would have relinquished design control over to the construction consortium to decide exactly what would have been the final outcome. This would have also left residents in the dark as to what would be built next their homes.
In Parkville, the Operations Centre that was partially shown on the final fly through video was completely omitted from the approved plans, raising a very interesting question of whether the consortium would have even been permitted to begin work without a further endorsed amendment to these plans.
Property Impact Report
The Property Impact Report was a requirement in the planning approval to determine the properties to which the government should offer voluntary acquisition. These properties are in addition to those already identified to be subject to compulsory acquisition. It is interesting that there were no guidelines from the Planning Minister, the approval document, or the original assessment committee, as to what a property impact report should include or what criteria should be used. As such the Linking Melbourne Authority took it upon themselves to create their own criteria.
LMA Criteria for eligibility for voluntary acquisition.
1. Whether the property is outside the project area and is materially impacted by an elevated structure, in accordance with the approval decision.
2. Whether a property adjacent to the project area will have intervening properties (in the project area) demolished, which would remove a previous physical barrier through built form between the adjacent property and the project area.
3. Whether the property is located in the vicinity of, or adjacent to, a location in which the CIS process raised issues of visual and amenity impact, particularly around surface and elevated roads associated with the project.
(East West Link Property Impact Report Page 6)
Within the Western Interchange there were 33 properties deemed eligible for acquisition. within the Manningham triangle all properties including all 20 residential properties including the Elderly Chinese Residents Home were given this status. On Manningham Street 11 properties were deemed eligible with the reasoning behind the arbitrary cutoff line being made no more clear despite the release of the document.
Perhaps the case example for how this ‘make it up as you go’ approach failed the fairness test, was that of the townhouses located on Lennon Street behind Manningham Street. These properties clearly satisfy all three of the manufactured criteria and in some cases are closer to the elevated road structures than those deemed eligible in Manningham Street. Despite this they were apparently not even considered.
What both of these documents indicate is that the process had little oversight and was very rushed. The ultimate arbiter for whether sufficient detail was provided and whether the content of the reports had sufficient vigor, was also the biggest proponent of the project, the Planning Minister Matthew Guy. The very idea that Mr Guy could act impartially on these matters given his strong vested interest in the project proceeding before the election, is in itself ludicrous. It was a kid running the candy store.
To see the released documents follow the link below
Fortunately the Victorian public was given the ultimate say on the project and voted to boot the Liberal Party out of Government and the East West Link into the dust bin. With the project now on indefinite hold and the LMA being wound up, the next step is for the voiding the planning approval. This is likely to come through the Supreme Court action by the Yarra and Moreland councils. In addition to this the new Planning Minister should work on providing real and unequivocal heritage protection to Royal Park to ensure that no other governments can move in on one of Melbourne’s great public parks.
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