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Planning to Fail: East West Link (Part 2)

Continuing from yesterday's repost of part one from the Red and Black Architect blog.

Parkville

The suburb of West Parkville is arguably the most impacted by the East West Link reference project. The proposal put forward by the LMA involves the destruction of the Ross Straw Field, sensitive ecosystems and 55 homes to provide the ‘western portal’ to the tunnel and connection to Citylink.

Comments from the Assessment Committee:

The location of the western portal shown in the Reference Project is unacceptable, as is thehorizontal and vertical alignment of the ramps from the western portal to CityLink. The Committee recommends further alternatives be investigated.

The impacts on these communities [In Parkville West] have been subject of cursory assessment and consideration. The Committee does not accept that the application of the UDF [Urban Design Framework] will have the capacity of “mitigating these visual impacts”. The Committee considers that the impacts need to be avoided through adoption of a different design outcome.

The resultant negative impacts of these southerly links on the residential communities of Parkville West, Travancore South, Flemington Public Housing Estate and Kensington residents are of such a scale that in the view of the Committee, they should not form part of the approved Project and that further work needs to be done.

The Manningham Parklands are the most visually impacted part of the Project area. The Committee considers that the evidence in support of the Reference Project in this area is unconvincing, and it was persuaded by the evidence and submissions made by experts, community groups and individuals.

Comments from the Minister for Planning, Matthew Guy:

The Committee considered that the visual and related impacts of the Reference Project within Precinct 3: Royal Park represented an unacceptable intrusion into Royal Park. The Committee found that the reduction in open space, the permanent loss of trees, the realignment of the tram line and the increase in road and traffic-related infrastructure within the Park were matters which can and should be avoided.

A condition of my approval decision for the Project is that the Elliott Avenue interchange is deleted and that a connection between the Project and Flemington Road be examined. I note that a connection between the Project and Flemington Road has not yet been the subject of detailed design. For this reason I have included a condition on the approval decision that a Development Plan showing the design for the connection between the Project and Flemington Road be submitted to me to my satisfaction.

Planning status in Parkville

Red and Black Architect (R+BA) comments:

It is welcoming that the minister recognised that the proposed impacts upon Royal Park and West Parkville by the reference project were unacceptable. Indeed the deletion of the Elliott Avenue interchange is to be commended. What is less positive is the planning situation that the entire suburb of Parkville now faces. The project has approval but the roads are to be redesigned. Individuals and community groups are in the dark about what the changes are and are effectively locked out of the future planning and design process. This feels undemocratic and disrespectful towards the impacted communities.

Part B and Arden Macaulay

Part B of the East West Project involves essentially duplicating the elevated Citylink freeway along the Moonee Ponds Creek and then terminating at the Melbourne Port. The key issues with this precinct are the environmental impacts on the Moonee Ponds Creek, The social and amenity impacts on Debney’s Park and the nearby public housing and the viability of the proposed Arden Macaulay Structure Plan to revitalise the underutilised area.

Comments from the Assessment Committee:

The Committee is not convinced that the LMA has adequately researched design alternatives for Part B, including consideration on the east side of CityLink or further in‐tunnel options. In addition on traffic grounds Part B is not justified in the short to medium term.

Since the Committee hearing concluded, there have been a number of statements issued by the State Government in relation to works on CityLink, and in particular the CityLink connection to the West Gate Freeway. This connection was mentioned a number of times during the Hearing as being a major contributor to congestion on the Bolte Bridge, even though CityLink appeared to have spare capacity.

The occupation of part of the Vision Australia property in Barrett Street, very recently upgraded as a national facility, suggests an inadequate planning and evaluation process and supports the perception that the Project has been designed [with] inadequate attention to its impacts and [designed with an alignment] following the ‘line of least resistance’

The Committee considers the intrusion into this proposed “dense, mixed‐use inner city suburb” is unacceptable, due to its impacts on the planned residential and mixed use redevelopment ambitions outlined within the Arden‐Macaulay Structure Plan Area.

The Committee considers that in terms of its significant visual impact on the Moonee Ponds Creek corridor and buildings and public spaces adjacent to the route, the extent of residential property acquisition that is to be acquired and its proximity to residential properties that are not to be acquired, Part B is an unacceptable design outcome.

The Committee acknowledges that the Reference Project does meet some of the many Urban Design Principles, but it remains concerned that any alternative design for the Project may not be a more complete example of the Urban Design Principles in action than the Reference Project.

The Committee considers that the Reference Project is not an acceptable response to the Urban Design Principles

Part B has not been adequately assessed, and should be set aside until the proposed Widening of CityLink and the Tullamarine Freeway, and the proposed WestLink connection is better understood and resolved. This should take into account a number of key issues, including:

(a) Resolution and development of Part B with greater integration with the Arden‐Macaulay Structure Plan.

(b) Key locational impacts such as the Vision Australia premises, SP AusNet site, the Flemington Housing estate (and its playgrounds, gardens and the community centre), and the apartments at 18 Bent Street.

(c) The alignment of the Moonee Ponds Creek and the potential to enhance its function as an open space corridor as part of the Arden‐Macaulay redevelopment.

(d) The reservation of the proposed WestLink alignment.

Comments from the Minister for Planning, Matthew Guy:

I have determined that Part B should be approved at this time subject to the design and implementation addressing as appropriate the recommendations of the Committee. Accordingly, the resolution of the design of the southern connection between Parts A and B of the Project will be addressed by the conditions I have imposed on the approval decision which require the preparation of a Development Plan for certain aspects of the Project including the southern connection. The Development Plan will be required to be in accordance with the Urban Design Principles and the Performance Requirements …and must be prepared to my satisfaction.

I intend to establish an advisory group comprising the Chair or Deputy Chair of the Committee, the Victorian Government Architect (or Associate Victoria Government Architect) and representatives of the DTPLI Planning group, VicRoads and the Department of Treasury and Finance to advise me on the Development Plans that I have required be submitted to my satisfaction.

R+BA comments:

By approving Part B of the East West Link, the Minister has essentially ripped up a four year long detailed planning process that resulted in the Arden Macaulay structure plan. This plan would have facilitated a revitalisation of the precinct and supported a contemporary medium density community environment. The backbone of this work was the opening up of the Moonee Ponds Creek as an environmentally sensitive public open space. This parkland would have provided high quality amenity and provided sensible justification for higher density residential developments. The East West Link will now doom the creek to be little more than an overshadowed drain.

The way in which the permits were granted has left the majority of the project up to a further redesign process to meet the satisfaction of the planning minister. The question is how can the community trust this Minister given how he has recklessly disregarded so much of the expert independent report?

Conclusion

This project has been a rushed political propaganda exercise from its inception. It is suffering from terrible planning, woeful design and a community consultation process that is hopelessly inadequate. The planning process has remarkably left a greater level of uncertainty upon its conclusion than it had going into the Assessment Committee two months ago. If ever there was an example of how not to build infrastructure this is it.

As a final remark I would also like to extend my sympathies to those who have had their lives turned upside down by this ordeal. Hundreds will be displaced from their homes and thousands will see their neighbourhoods and parklands be permanently torn apart by this political idiocy. There is no justification for the level of hurt this is causing.

Architecture is for Everyone.

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