Council fears Napthine govt payback if it joins East West legal action

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The Age: Council fears Napthine govt payback if it joins East West legal action. October 14, 2014, Clay Lucas, City Editor, The Age

Moonee Valley Council fears wider repercussions from the Napthine government if it launches legal action against Planning Minister Matthew Guy over the East West Link, the council’s chief executive says.

The council has been offered more than $70 million as a result of the toll road’s impact on the municipality – with a possible extra $15 million for “supplementary initiatives”.

These include the $15.7 million redevelopment of Debneys Park, which was completed for $2.5 million in 2011 for children from nearby housing commission flats. The playground will be removed to make way for the toll road, and rebuilt nearby.

The council has released a report it will consider on Wednesday on the $6.8 billion East West Link, which will join the Eastern Freeway in Clifton Hill to CityLink in Flemington.

The road will have serious impacts on residents living near its western end as it emerges from a tunnel underneath Royal Park and joins CityLink via a series of on and off ramps.

The council says the government’s Linking Melbourne Authority has not supplied it with crucial documents about impacts the road will have.

Those impacts aside, the council says the road will have a range of effects on the area around Ascot Vale and Flemington, including:

Slowing down tram routes 57 and 59 as a result of additional traffic lights created by the new toll road
Increased pedestrian and cyclist danger as a result of widening intersections and “a new arterial road through Debneys Park”
Noise increases
Poorer air quality
Loss of park frontage onto the Moonee Ponds Creek
Visual impacts “due to the number, height and scale of ramps connecting the tunnel to CityLink and Mt Alexander Road”

The council’s report, written by chief executive Neville Smith, will also see the council on Wednesday night consider joining a Supreme Court action taken by Yarra and Moreland councils against Mr Guy.

Mr Smith recommends in his report against joining that legal action, saying a key consideration was the council’s future relationship with the Napthine government if it wins the state election.

He said there could be impacts on projects outside the East West Link if the council joined the other councils’ legal actions.

“Taking legal action against the state government and the Minister for Planning needs to be considered in light of the future co-operation of the state government in terms of funding for not only mitigating the effects of this project but for a whole range of other projects,” Mr Smith wrote.

“Whilst everyone expects that the state government should deal with all councils in an objective manner, I cannot be confident that taking legal action against the state government may in fact jeopardise council’s potential for ongoing co-operation in the future.”

A spokeswoman for Mr Guy said that any question about possible “retribution” from the Napthine government if Supreme Court action was launched was “somewhat juvenile and completely unfounded”.

Opposition planning spokesman Brian Tee said he applauded the council for publicly stating “what others fear”. He said the government was increasingly “singling out, bullying and refusing to work with those who dare to criticise them”.

The Linking Melbourne Authority wrote to Moonee Valley Council last week about the East West Link.

The authority’s chief executive Ken Mathers said that $70 million had been allocated “to provide a wide range of upgrades to community facilities” in Moonee Valley Council’s areas.

The roads authority said it had also “allocated” an additional $15 million on top of this $15.7 million to Debneys Park, although it was not clear whether this funding was tied to any conditions Moonee Valley Council needed to meet.

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