The Age: Counselling is all road authority can offer Parkville residents affected by tollway. October 30, 2014. Clay Lucas, Aisha Dow
Olivia Smith’s townhouse will soon face out onto three East West Link flyover freeways and she has not been offered any financial compensation.
When Parkville resident Olivia Smith learnt that, just outside her back door, a new freeway overpass would be built, she was so upset she rang the government agency responsible for it.
The Linking Melbourne Authority immediately offered her counselling, Ms Smith said.
Olivia Smith, whose outdoor space will soon face on to East West Link. Photo: Jason South
But Ms Smith and architect partner Michael will not be offered voluntary acquisition.
It is despite their apartment sitting near 175 units where owners were offered voluntary acquisition as part of the $6.8 billion plan to join the Eastern Freeway to CityLink in Parkville and Flemington.
Some of the East West Link’s biggest impacts on residents are felt here at the planned toll road’s western end where it joins CityLink.
Ms Smith’s small 40-square-metre flat has a courtyard of almost equal size looking out onto the CityLink sound barrier. The flat was once a motel but was converted decades ago.
When they bought in 2008, Ms Smith said, they checked all the local planning laws and overlays. “We did all the checks you’re meant to do,” said Ms Smith, a mathematician.
A last-minute public disclosure in the East West Link’s plans was a two-storey, 24-hour operations and maintenance centre that will sit behind the Smiths’ apartment, separated by parkland.
Ms Smith questioned how Planning Minister Matthew Guy had approved the road and control centre despite there being no final plans at the time of the approval. “No member of the public could get planning permission off a reference design like this,” she said.
She said she and her partner were facing five years of construction when it was unlikely they could sell: “We will have a mortgage that is not covered by the asset, which is a scary position to be in.”
During construction, Ms Smith said, “I’ll be between 30 and 35, and I would like to have the option of having children – and we can’t have them here”.
A spokeswoman for the Linking Melbourne Authority said that 33 property owners in this section of Parkville, mostly those immediately adjacent to the toll road, had been offered voluntary acquisition.
The authority would not disclose if there were properties closer than the Smiths’ to the planned road that were to be bought by the government.
Neither the authority nor Mr Guy will release a Property Impact Report completed at the minister’s direction to identify properties affected that lay outside the road’s formal boundaries.
The spokeswoman said the control centre to be built behind the Smiths’ apartment was similar to one at EastLink that was located in a residential street.
Robert George has lived in the same apartments as Ms Smith for 25 years, and was there during construction of CityLink, when he lived through months of construction work and his unit cracked.
He said residents in the block of flats now faced “double trouble: we have lost a lot of property value and we have the potential for a very large nasty [repair] bill coming in about five years’ time”.
Mr George said he had already “lost maybe $100,000 in property value because of this. The flat next door sold for $320,000 four or five years ago; it now wouldn’t sell for more than $220,000”.
Anton Dunhill is a partner at lawyers Hunt and Hunt specialising in compulsory acquisitions. He is not representing the Smiths but said examples such as theirs highlighted the need for legislative reform.
At present, “you don’t have a right of recourse unless some portion of your property is to be acquired. You don’t have the right,” he said, “to say ‘hey you are so close to my property you may as well have taken it’.”
Meanwhile, Melbourne City Council will investigate if it could be eligible for compensation from the state government due to the impact of the East West Link.
The council has already received $15 million from the state government to relocate affected sporting grounds at Royal Park.
But on Tuesday, councillors voted to seek legal advice on whether they could successfully sue over other negative impacts on council infrastructure.