More land taken for East West Link

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The Age: More land taken for East West Link. October 5, 2014. Clay Lucas City Editor, The Age

Planning Minister Matthew Guy has quietly annexed an extra 10.5 hectares of parks and land – the equivalent of five MCG playing fields – to make way for the East West Link.

The extra land to build the road includes seven hectares of Royal Park.

And last week he also deleted a requirement that there be “no net loss of public open space” as part of the project.

Mr Guy gave permission for the land to be taken for the road on the same day the government signed a deal with the private sector to build the road, at a cost of $6.8 billion.

The move came as the Napthine government lost a preliminary battle in the Supreme Court against two inner-city councils Mr Guy had previously dismissed as “odd-bods and crazies”.

The government has been ordered by the court to pay the councils’ costs.

The East West Link is a controversial toll road the government wants built to join the Eastern Freeway in Clifton Hill to CityLink in Flemington.

Labor opposes the toll road, and says it will instead build a new rail line under central Melbourne if it wins next month’s election.

The Napthine government’s roads authority spokeswoman said that, of the 10.5 further hectares annexed for the East West Link, only 1.5 hectares would be taken permanently.

The remaining nine hectares would be returned she said, although the authority did not specify when. The project will be completed in 2019.

Friends of Royal Park secretary Kaye Oddie said the previous government promised to hand back parkland taken for the Royal Children’s Hospital. “We haven’t seen that happen yet, and this whole road project has been done so much on the run, we’ve no idea what’s going to happen down the track.”

The decision came as the Napthine government lost its attempt to block Yarra and Moreland councils seeing what documents Mr Guy considered before approving theEast West Link.

The councils had taken Mr Guy to the Supreme Court, arguing he had not legally approved the toll road. They argued Mr Guy was legally obliged to consider the road’s economic benefits.

Mr Guy said last month he had not been involved in seeing the confidential business case for the project.

“I’ve made it very, very clear that my role in the East West Link is in the planning for the project,” he said. “I wasn’t involved, and did not want to be involved, in any of the business case discussions.”

Supreme Court justice Melissa Daly last week ordered Mr Guy to “identify each and every document” he considered when deciding to approve the road.

This included “any interim or final business case” for the road – although the minister was not required to hand over the document, just to say whether he had considered it.

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