Local News

Listed in this post are newswothy items from recent times.  If you are aware of things that are happening which others may be be interested in, please email us at eastsidernews1@gmail.com.

Public pushback against Boroondara Council’s parklands bike path plan.

Hays Paddock current pathway

Boroondara’s proposal to build over six kilometres of cycleway, primarily through open space in North Balwyn, Balwyn and East Kew, has been greeted with indignation and anxiety by hundreds of local residents who use these parks daily for active recreation.

Hundreds of residents have written to the Council and councillors to register their concern about the proposal. They have also signed petitions to the Council.

The open space under direct threat from the proposal include the King Street linear park, Hays Paddock, Stradbroke Park, Myrtle and Macleay Parks, Hislop Park, Gordon Barnard Reserve, Jacka Street Reserve and Greythorn Park

The indignation arises from the fact of Council’s abject failure to discuss the proposal with the people most affected: the local residents and ratepayers who have for many years enjoyed these parks as a sanctuary from the hubhub of daily city living, a venue for social connection, and as their main avenue for exercise in a safe setting.

Residents use the gravel walking paths for strolling, jogging, pram pushing and dog-walking and feel genuinely and realistically that opening up these paths to cyclists would be a threat to their peace and safety.

If the project were to materialise, this fear would be amplified in coming years by increased usage of high speed electric bikes and e-scooters. Together with the increased popularity of mountain bike riding in urban areas, this would make things progressively worse for residents who are seeking their quiet walk through local parkland. The future of dog walking, currently off-leash and safe in several of these parks, would be called into question.

The proposal would be likely to necessitate the removal of vegetation in these parks, including canopy trees. In excising significantly more open space for the cycleway itself, the area available for tree plantings in coming years would also be likely to be curtailed along the six kilometre or so corridor for the cycle way.

None of these issues have been discussed with residents prior to the cycleway proposal being made public by Boroondara Council. Nor is there any Council documentation available to show that the very real and substantial concerns being raised by residents were even recognised, much less researched, by councillors and the Council administration.

It is well over time for the Council to think again. Cycling is an important element in the transport mix, but Boroondara Council should not be sacrificing even more valuable public open space for this purpose to the detriment of its much superior current use.

David Crawford, Balwyn

Level Crossing Removal Project update – tree removals in Churchill Street, Mont Albert

In the February 2022 edition of Eastsider News, the president of CROWAG (Combined Residents of Whitehorse Action Group) Ross Gillespie wrote about the removal of trees in Churchill St, Mont Albert by the Level Crossing Removal Project (LXRP). The Member for Box Hill, Paul Hamer MP was subsequently approached for his response to the issues raised in this article.

Mr Hamer’s response is given below. He began by pointing out that the scope of works for the project is not just the trench, but also the associated utilities infrastructure that need to be provided to operate the rail line post construction.

While the actual trench starts and ends in the vicinity of Churchill Street and Salisbury Avenue, it is these associated infrastructure requirements that necessitates construction works beyond the immediate trench environs. This is why a project boundary map was developed for the project, and comment sought over a two month period between December 2020 and end of February 2021. The draft project boundary included Canterbury Sports ground and most of Surrey Park – for construction staging – though much of this area was able to be removed from the project boundary when the final plan was signed off by the Minister Planning. The project boundary can be downloaded here: https://engage.vic.gov.au/download/document/15535

In Churchill Street, the main impact to trees is from trenching to install new high-voltage power, signalling and other cables underground. The trenching will cut through the root zones of some trees, and those that cannot survive the impact to their roots need to be removed. In some sections, LXRP are able to bore the path for the cables and this has saved around 20 trees. I did ask whether the cables could be laid on a different alignment to avoid the impact on vegetation; however, I understand that there are existing services running on both sides of the track meaning there is insufficient clearance for the new services to be laid. I also requested that the cables be bored along the entire length of Churchill Street; however, I understand that the boring of cables is only possible where no service pit infrastructure is required, and no connections to on-track signalling and power equipment are required.

A hi-rail pad is also being constructed on Churchill Street so that track maintenance vehicles can access the track. Currently, maintenance vehicles can access the track at the level crossing, but with the removal of these level crossings meaning that the line is level crossing free (except for a pedestrian crossing in Box Hill) from the City to Ringwood, a hi-rail pad is the only possible way that track maintenance vehicles will be able to access the track. On behalf of residents, I advocated for this pad to be located at a number of different locations along the rail line; however, none of the alternatives were considered to meet the infrastructure and operational requirements.

Mr Hamer said he has been consistently raising the concerns about the removal of trees with both the Minister and the LXRP. In some areas, this has in fact avoided further tree removal; e.g. in parts of Churchill Street – through the use of small boring machines to lay signalling cables (as mentioned above). Following further work and requests, in Lorne Parade Reserve, the LXRP has also identified that it will now be able to permanently retain most of the trees along the Windsor Crescent perimeter of Lorne Parade Reserve; the LXRP has also now indicated that it will return the palm tree that currently sits in the Surrey Hills Station Car Park (it needs to be removed for the construction works), and will also retain the large pine tree in Beatty Street Reserve.

Mr Hamer indicated that he knows that some in the community would have liked to see no tree removal outside of the trench walls, but this was never possible under any level crossing removal solution. The project has saved trees by modifying designs and using alternative construction methods wherever possible. The decision to build one station with two entrances has also reduced the number of trees that would need to have been removed.

Thank you to CROWAG for providing Mr Hamer’s responses to questions put to him by the group.  For further comment, please contact:

Paul Hamer MP, Member for Box Hill

24 Rutland Road, Box Hill 3128

(03 9898 6606

North East Link

Pollution generated by diesel powered vehicles on the proposed North East Link (NELP) has not been adequately addressed by the various authorities involved says Barry Watson.  Research by Mr Watson, a resident of the City of Manningham demonstrates that this massive road project will lead to a significant increase in PM2.5 air pollution in the area due to the large volume of diesel trucks expected to use the road.

PM2.5 pollution comprises particulate matter suspended in the air and of a size so small they can get deep into the lungs and into the bloodstream. Exposure over long periods can cause adverse health effects.  It mainly comes from motor vehicles, wood burning heaters and industry.

Mr Watson recently spoke to officers of the City of Manningham seeking their assistance for his bid to get Victorian Environment Protection Authority to undertake a SEPP (State Environmental Planning Policy) 12 month impact study.  Data of existing fine air particles caused by diesel trucks plus the NELP estimate that truck numbers will increase to 55% have been used to graph the expected pollution levels.  This points to levels exceeding World Health Organisation recommended limits and State Environment Policy.  This would suggest substantial grounds for undertaking such an impact study.

This item is based on material supplied by Barry Watson.