Home owners given notice on East West Link despite uncertainty over route

The Age: Home owners given notice on East West Link despite uncertainty over route. July 21, 2014, Adam Carey and Clay Lucas

Howard and Gillian Tuxworth, with children Harry and Molly. Their Collingwood home is set to be levelled for a temporary road for East West Link construction vehicles. Photo: Getty Images/Paul Jeffers

Dozens of Melbourne homeowners who live in the path of the proposed East West Link have been told the Napthine government intends to acquire their homes by early October, despite recent changes to the design of the road that have made its final course uncertain.

Property owners in Melbourne’s inner north have been told by phone to expect a formal “notice of intention to acquire” in the first week of August.

The notice, by the Linking Melbourne Authority, will trigger a minimum two-month period before the government can take ownership of the properties.

Planning Minister Matthew Guy. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui

Slater & Gordon practice group leader Ben Hardwick last week wrote to several property owners to inform them of its preliminary view that there were no legal grounds on which it could challenge the notices, despite renewed uncertainty about what land would be required to build the East West Link.

Planning Minister Matthew Guy approved the project on June 30, but with changes to the design that was analysed and debated in an exhaustive 30-day public hearing.

His decision was on Friday challenged by Moreland council, , which voted to seek a judicial review in the Supreme Court.

The government has not signed contracts for the $14 billion-$18 billion project. It aims to do so before November 4, when it will enter caretaker mode before the November 29 state election.

Labor opposes the East West Link but says it would honour any contracts signed before the election.

Mr Hardwick said the new uncertainty about what land the project would claim had created “at least some prospect that such contracts won’t be able to be entered into by the election”.

“LMA is clearly acting on the basis of an assumption that the project will proceed,” he wrote.

“We appreciate that LMA’s position is inconsistent with the broader uncertainty about the shape of the project and the impending state election and this makes it very hard for you to plan for your future.”

A spokeswoman for the authority said notices would be issued “once the project area is declared, which we expect in the near future, but owners wouldn’t need to leave their properties for over a year”.

Clifton Hill resident Gillian Tuxworth said the authority had phoned her family on Tuesday to tell them to expect a notice in early August.

The Tuxworths live on Wellington Street in a house that is to be levelled to make way for a temporary road for construction vehicles. The expert panel that assessed the East West Link recommended the temporary road not be built, “due to unacceptable and … unnecessary impacts on existing residents and businesses”. Mr Guy rejected this recommendation.

Ms Tuxworth said the family was told the house would be acquired in October but they would not have to move out until August 2015. She said they were resigned to leaving, but did not want to.

“We bought this house eight years ago. It was pretty derelict and we’ve done it all up and brought it back to its heritage,” she said. “We’ve replastered, we’ve repainted, we’ve had windows replaced, we now have a beautiful family home with a beautiful back garden.”

She said that although she believed something had to be done to relieve congestion on Melbourne’s roads, she didn’t “understand the rush” to sign contracts for the East West Link.

“I don’t feel the government has necessarily explored all the options. Why can’t [the temporary road] be moved 400 metres down the road so we don’t have to move? We don’t have any answers,” she said.

The East West Link is a proposed 18-kilometre tollway between the Eastern Freeway in Collingwood and the Western Ring Road in Sunshine West, with a connection to the Port of Melbourne.

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