Residents angry they will lose their homes to East West Link despite government’s own advice

The Age: Residents angry they will lose their homes to East West Link despite government’s own advice. July 2, 2014. Clay Lucas, City Editor, The Age

Keith Fitzgerald’s house in Collingwood’s Bendigo Street is among 18 that will go. Photo: Joe Armao

Residents whose homes can now be demolished for the East West Link have expressed their anger at Planning Minister Matthew Guy’s decision not to follow his government’s own expert planning advice to spare their houses.

Mr Guy’s decision in approving the $6-8 billion road tunnel has also sparked fresh opposition from Melbourne City councillors, with a vote at the council next week likely to voice concern over “the serious lack of clarity” created by the minister’s decision.

Mr Guy on Monday released the advice of the planning experts he appointed last October, and whose advice he ignored on key elements of the $6 billion-$8 billion project.

Planned East West Link on-ramp.

The planned Hoddle Street flyover: ‘An important gateway feature and landmark.’

The planning experts were there as a means of ”ensuring that community voices are heard”, Mr Guy said when they were appointed.

In Collingwood, the six-person expert committee headed by veteran planner Kathy Mitchell found the government should drop a planned flyover at Hoddle Street.

”There is no justification for the Hoddle Street flyover,” the experts found, because of expected traffic reductions once the East West Link was built, and the impact on locals.

Collingwood homeowner Adam Cribbes, who will be affected by the East West tunnel on-ramp, with his son Dexter. Photo: Joe Armao

But Mr Guy, in approving the tollway to link the Eastern Freeway to CityLink, rejected that finding. He said the flyover could be ”an important gateway feature and landmark”.

Keith Fitzgerald’s house in Collingwood’s Bendigo Street is among 18 that will go after Mr Guy’s ruling. The 70-year-old has lived in the house since 1944 and said he had been devastated by the project’s likely impact on his street.

”I’ve lived here since I was a one-year-old. Why should we have to leave for this?” Mr Fitzgerald said. ”I’m losing my house, my neighbours, my community, you lose everything. All that is gone, it’s a sad and depressing time.”

He said there was little chance he could find another house in his neighbourhood he could afford.

Mr Guy said on Monday that the interchange to be built where Mr Fitzgerald’s house now stood was ”exceedingly important” and should be included in the project.

Asked about the destruction of homes there, Mr Guy said it was ”all very emotive” to talk about the houses that would go. He said he was ”a little flabbergasted” at the media attention on the acquisition of homes and businesses.

”Some people have a vested interest on the inner suburbs more than those in the outer east. At the end of the day, my vested interest is for the people of Victoria,” Mr Guy said.

Another Collingwood resident, Adam Cribbes, lives with his family in a house not up for compulsory acquisition but which will face the entrance to the new freeway. He said it would have been better to avoid demolition of Bendigo Street.

”If it could be avoided, I don’t see why you would force people out,” Mr Cribbes said.

At the other end of the tunnel in Kensington, the government’s planning panel found an additional proposed elevated roadway parallel with CityLink above the Moonee Ponds Creek “has not been adequately assessed, and should be set aside” until a later date.

It found there would be serious impact on residents, the Seeing Eye Dogs’ new $8 million training centre, on a crucial SP AusNet power station, and the creek.

Mr Guy rejected this finding, saying “an integrated approval” of the entire project including the East-West tunnel and the extra elevated roadway above Moonee Ponds Creek “better served” the public interest.

Simultaneously, Mr Guy deleted a proposed interchange within Royal Park, but said a new interchange in Flemington Road, Parkville, near the Royal Children’s Hospital, “should be examined”.

The formal inclusion of the Flemington Road option came just 40 days before bidders for the project are expected to make their “best and final offer” on the multi-billion dollar project.

Melbourne City councillor Rohan Leppert said this last-minute inclusion had created “so many unknowns in all of this, and our residents are going to absolutely spare when they realise what the new Flemington Road interchange will involve”.

And he said the minister had ignored the planning panel’s recommendation to not proceed with the new elevated road alongside CityLink. “They said it was clear, we should not proceed with [it].”

“The minister, just for the sake of political expediency and for the sake of just getting all of these approvals out of the way at once, he has just ignored the panel’s recommendations,” said Cr Leppert, a member of the Greens political party.

The council will next week vote on whether to formally oppose elements of the project, and may ask that the contract to build the East West Link not be signed until after November’s state election.

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