Multimillion dollar playground to be destroyed by East West Link

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The Age: Multimillion dollar playground to be destroyed by East West Link. October 1, 2014. Yolanda Redrup and Clay Lucas

The East West link will be built over the Debney’s Park playground. Photo: Joe Armao

A multimillion dollar playground built only three years ago will be destroyed by the East West Link toll road.

Flemington locals are angry that the toll road will be built over the $2.5 million Debneys Park playground as part of the East West Link’s first stage.

The playground was built in 2011 for children from nearby housing commission flats.

The panel of independent planning experts appointed by the Napthine government to advise on the East West Link recommended in May not to go ahead with this section of the project.

The government ignored this recommendation in its final plan for the $6.8 billion toll road, released on Tuesday.

If this section of road through Flemington was built, the government’s planning experts said, the East West Link plans should include provisions for a new playground of equal or higher standard nearby.

While the government has said it will move and create new “play spaces”, and build a new community centre with a sports pavilion, it has not said where.

Flemington Association president Les Potts was sceptical about whether the same quality could be provided elsewhere.

“This has happened before when CityLink was built. When it was built there was compensation paid, but the compensation in parkland was 15 kilometres away,” he said.

Public tenants in the tower blocks would be most affected by the building of the East West Link, with a new elevated road to be less than 40 metres from their homes, Mr Potts said.

“They are the community who are going to be the least represented and the hardest hit by this.”

Mr Potts said the building of the road would also result in the loss of community centres and sports teams in the Debneys Park area.

“We want these groups of people to be better integrated into the community and when we lose playgrounds and community centres, it has a huge impact on the area.”

East West Connect has committed to give $15 million to minimise the effects in Debneys Park.

A spokeswoman for the Linking Melbourne Authority said it and the consortium building the toll road would “work closely with the community”.

This would ultimately mean “a new and better playground and a new modern community centre” would be built, “which will be a huge benefit to everyone living there”, she said.

Residents of nearby flats already have difficulties with noise and pollution and the Moonee Valley Council is reviewing the latest round of planning changes to determine their impact.

Melbourne Labor MP Jennifer Kanis said the latest redesign “magnifies rather than reduces” the impact of the East West Link on the Flemington community.

The government’s planning experts “made specific recommendations about protecting community play space and parkland and this has been completely disregarded”, she said.

Ms Kanis labelled the decision not to protect the parkland “breathtakingly arrogant”.

“The playground is the biggest and newest in the area, bringing together families from diverse backgrounds,” she said.

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