The Age: East West Link leaves a legacy of ‘ghost streets’ and trail of broken dreams Aisha Dow and Tammy Mills April 15, 2015
Parkville residents have breathed a sigh of relief after Premier Daniel Andrews announced a deal had been reached to not build the East West Link.
The freeway may be dead for now, but the damage has already been done. In neighbourhoods with homes acquired for the East West Link there are rows of empty houses, dubbed ghost streets.
“The West Parkville community have been decimated by this,” said Manningham Street resident James Milne. “It was a community where everyone knew each other. That’s all going.”
About 70 people whose homes and business were acquired for the toll road are now fighting for compensation from the Linking Melbourne Authority, including for emotional distress.
Parkville residents Davis Michaud, left, and James Milne celebrate the decision to axe the East West Link project. Photo: Eddie Jim
In October last year 102 properties were compulsorily acquired and another 46 were purchased on a voluntarily basis.
On Wednesday Premier Daniel Andrews announced “anyone who wants to come back to their home will be able to do so”.
But this could be easier said done for those in Collingwood, Parkville and Clifton Hill who have already bought another house, after becoming fed up waiting to hear if the acquisition would be reversed.
Collingwood resident Helen Bonanno gave up and bought another house, in Northcote. Photo: Pat Scala
On the east side of Bendigo Street, Collingwood, 17 houses were supposed to be demolished to make way for a sound barrier. All were acquired – some voluntarily, but mostly forcibly – and the neighbourhood morphed into a ghost street.
A number of these properties remain vacant, some are rentals and a handful still house Bendigo Street’s long-term residents who only had a few months to go before they had to move.
After 25 years, Helen Bonanno, 69, has bought a house in Northcote. She said she could not deal with the uncertainty that a change of government could mean her home could be threatened again.
“It’ll flip flop, you never know … I don’t want this to go on,” she said.
Law firm Slater and Gordon said they are seeking compensation for an estimated 70 individual parties whose properties have beenacquired as part of planning for the freeway.
Practice group leader, Roger Batrouney, said his clients had faced a high level of uncertainty not seen in other compulsory acquisition cases. He said the confusion had continued even after the Andrews government came to power, because people’s homes were still officially acquired.
Mr Batrouney said he would be seeking the maximum compensation allowable under the Land Acquisition and Compensation Act (an extra 10 per cent of property value) for intangible losses occurred when forced to sell, such as emotional distress.
But he was also concerned the act did not always provide people enough compensation to be able to buy a comparable replacement property. “To relocate they might have to pay another $50,000 or $100,000,” he said.
It is not yet known how many people will take up the government’s offer to purchase back their acquired homes, at the same price.
Only one property owner in Parkville and one in Collingwood has expressed a desire to take back their properties. The remaining 100 have until the end of August to decide. It is understood they would not have to pay stamp duty.
Meanwhile, the reported exodus of people moving out of streets affected by acquisitions raises questions about what the government is going to do with the leftover properties.
The Premier said on Wednesday that they may be sold to fund capital works, however a decision will not be made until after August when the number of acquisitions are finalised.
Mr Milne said he would support the state government developing land around his recentlyrenovated home in Parkville, if there was a clear plan for urban renewal.